Plenty of hay brings prices down for consumers

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Those searching for hay to feed their livestock needn’t look too hard thanks to this year’s abundant crop.

So far the hay crop has been pretty large, said Jerry Lindquist, crop management educator at Michigan State University Extension.

“There’s a large supply of hay harvested through the second cutting, and it looks like a third cutting will be good for many farms,” Lindquist said. “Because of that, it’s putting a surplus supply of hay on the market.”

However, the situation is a little “good news, bad news,” Lindquist said. While there is a large amount of hay, the quality is not the best.

“For the most part, much of the hay is lower quality because there was a lot of rain, which made it grow rapidly and mature,” he said. “A lot of dry hay got rained on.”

Despite the lower quality, Lindquist is pleased to see an influx of hay, especially after little rainfall in 2012 created a shortage of hay.

“For the past three years, we’ve been building the supply back and now it’s to a point where there’s a surplus,” he said. “For those buying, it’s good news.”

Across the state, hay prices are down by about 20 percent for the majority of hay, Lindquist said. It’s harder to find high quality alfalfa hay, he added.

With the vast amount of hay available, Lindquist said some farmers are marketing their crops differently to stand out.

“There are people trying to be strategic and make smaller square bales instead of the large round bales,” he said. “The square bale market has been low since the round baler became popular 15 to 20 years ago, so with the surplus, maybe square bales is a way to break into the market and be unique.”

While there isn’t an indication of a surplus for corn, Lindquist said the crop seems to be on track after some weather-related delays.

Because of the wet and cold weather early on, the corn was planted late and was running behind, Lindquist said. However, recent heat has helped make up for lost time.

“The last three weeks of heat have helped the crop catch up,” he said. “Most of the crop is now at the average growth stage for where it should be this time of year. Things got almost a little too dry with the most recent heat, but then we just got that rain, so the crop is moving along.”

To keep things on the right path, Lindquist said the area will need both more heat and more rain throughout August. Farmers also are hoping for cool evenings to stay away, he added.

“We can’t have cool nights in the 40s and 50s at this point,” Lindquist said. “That’s what happened last year and it caused the corn not to mature. We’re hoping not to get the first frost until at least September. It’s a race against Mother Nature.”