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Midwest hay market prices are increasing due to several factors

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 01/11/2012 3:59 PM

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SAUK CENTRE, Minn. — No matter if it is in squares or rounds, hay is selling for more this year.

Hay that sold for $150 a ton is up to $200, said Dyersville Hay Auction manager Randy Hess. The increase is even larger on higher-end hay.

County Extension educator Dan Martens said Sauk Centre Hay Auction averages for 176 to 200 Relative Feed Value hay is averaging $200 to $240 per ton this season compared $150 a year ago. Hay with a 151 to 174 RFV sold for $123 is now in the $160 to $200 range. Even hay on the lower RFV end, hay with a 101 to 125 RFV, is averaging $120 compared to the $87 per ton price last year.

"Much of it is attributed to the challenge of putting up good quality, milk cow hay," Martens said.

Straw prices have also increased from $28 to $60.

"Our closest source of wheat straw put more acres to corn," said Rock Valley, Iowa, hay auction manager Paul McGill. "It makes it more expensive to get it here. There is a little straw within 200 miles of us. It costs more to truck it here because the loads are lighter."

Sawdust and wood shavings, not a part of the hay auctions, prices have also inflated, Martens said. Supplies are tighter as wood manufacturing companies are using sawdust and wood shavings as a heat source within their plants.

Straw isn't only used for bedding, Martens said. It is also part of the feed ration on some operations.

SDrought in the southern United States put pressure on the hay market as cattlemen looked for hay further north. Markets in Nebraska and Kansas are probably feeling the greatest affect from the southern drought, Martens added.

The growing season presented challenges for producers in the Midwest. There were few windows of opportunity to get hay baled between rain showers. Even when the showers stopped, it was hard to get into the fields with equipment due to soggy ground.

Livestock prices have also been good, which has stimulated demand for hay, McGill said.

"All of that points to a higher hay market," he said.

Auctions aren't seeing panic buying.

Extension encourages farmers to get hay and bedding in advance instead of making purchases when the hay mow is empty.

"If you are shopping around, you have more opportunities to see what's on the market," Martens said.

The biggest share of hay is sold through connections, he said. Hay auctions are one way to establish those connections. For the seller, they learn the needs of buyers and find which buyers have the resources to pay for hay. The buyer finds trustworthy sellers with good quality forages. It is a win-win for both when the connection is made.

Websites for hay auctions and pricing remains a good tool and starting point for producers, Martens said.