Iowa Public Television


Midwest Hay Conditions

posted on August 2, 2013

Cooler temperatures and scattered showers delivered much-needed moisture to portions of the Corn Belt this week.

Severe thunderstorms roared across northern Nebraska Thursday, as winds of up to 100 miles per hour pelted some areas with baseball-sized hail. Portions of Kansas also received more than 5” of rain late this week.

Regardless of whether any specific area got rain or not, conditions – in most regions – are much improved from last year when the worst drought in half a century devastated crops – as well as pasture and rangeland.

And as Ashley Davis discovered this week, the variables are different this year, but producers are doing their best to “make hay while the sun shines.” Paul Yeager explains.

Midwest Hay Conditions

Farmers have endured the ups and the downs of Mother Nature this year. With snow in May, planting delays due to wet conditions, and a midsummer dry spell, corn, beans, and other crops have suffered. Hay producers also struggled this spring due to persistent rain.  

Dale Leslein, an auctioneer and manager at the Dyersville Sales Company in northeast, Iowa, has seen a lot of damaged and wet hay come through his auction this summer. With forage coming from all over the Midwest, Washington, Wyoming and even Canada, Leslein knows all too well how conditions are affecting this year’s hay crop.

Dale Leslein / Dyersville Sales Co.: “The quality is down because last year we had perfect conditions in a drought year you can get the hay baled dry. And this year the farmers are struggling to get the hay made properly. And we’ve had a lot of rain, a lot of untimely rain and also producers have not been able to cut their hay on a regular 28 or 30 day schedule. They’ve had to be at the mercy of the weather so it’s affecting quality and it’s going to affect quantity as well.”

The  sizzling summer of 2012 made for a dry crop season, which wasn’t a completely bad thing for hay producers. Demand was high, but the supply was short which caused prices to skyrocket. This week at the Dyersville Hay Auction, a second crop of mixed orchard grass and alfalfa sold for a top price of $280 per ton.

Dale Leslein / Dyersville Sales Co.: “We got a lot of wet hay a lot of its big squares which carry a couple hundred pounds per bale. Extra moisture on it and the shelf life on that hay isn’t very long and we saw the wet hay sell at a deduction today and the good dry hay sell at a premium.”

When it comes to the major crops produced in the United States, hay ranks behind corn and soybeans. But hay is much more labor intensive.

Joel Van Wyk produces corn, soybeans and hay near Sully, Iowa. Van Wyk believes the market price of hay and the level of difficulty that comes with producing it may be causing some people to switch from hay to row crops.

Joel Van Wyk / Sully, Iowa: “Its kind of a challenge to put up good hay, it is not easy. Some years obviously work better than others, but it’s a challenge.”

Despite the hard work, Van Wyk plans to continue growing hay.

Joel Van Wyk / Farmer in Sully, Iowa: “There’s just not enough hay to meet the demand right now. There’s more people that are buying hay than are growing hay.”

Due to delays this season, many Midwest hay producers are just on their second cutting – some are on their third cutting. And as usual, weather conditions continue to be the x-factor. According to Leslein, between April and July of 2012, hay prices shot up 350%  - going from $7- per ton to $300 per ton. Weather, and the balance of supply and demand, will play a big role for hay conditions this summer.

Dale Leslein / Dyersville Sales Co.: “We need a little more wind and we need some heat again. It’s been very cool the last week. Hay’s been lying a week now and we have record low temperatures. This is October weather; this isn’t July weather or early August. We just need a little better weather conditions anyhow it’d be nice if we could get some nice warm sunny days and 10-15 mph wind and get some very good hay made. If we can get about a week without any rain.”

For Market to Market, I’m Paul Yeager.

Tags: Dale Leslein drought Dyersrville Sales Company Dyersville hay hay auction Iowa midwest news Sully