Hot, dry summer weather has severely crimped hay production in parts of Idaho so far in 2013, reports Glenn Shewmaker, forage specialist with University of Idaho Extension.
Dryland growers in the southern part of the state were especially hard hit during first-crop harvest. “In some cases, they didn’t bother to cut,” says Shewmaker. “For many who did cut, the production was marginal. It wasn’t really economical to bale.”
Irrigators’ annual hay production this year will depend on their location, he says. “In a couple of the smaller (water) basins, they’re already out of water. Some were shut off at the end of June. Others are likely to see their water allotments severely limited.”
On the Snake River, nearly all growers have had their allotments reduced. “But most of them will be able to get through to the end of the season, and production should be normal for the majority of acres,” says Shewmaker. Statewide, he looks for hay production to be about 90% of normal this year.
Dairy-quality alfalfa has been bringing $220-230/ton at the stack. Feeder hay undamaged by rain is fetching around $200/ton. “It’s really not much of a spread. As much as anything else, it shows that dairies still don’t have much money to spend on hay.”
Prospects for plentiful corn silage supplies in the state could hold a lid on alfalfa hay prices heading into fall. “A lot of people have planted corn this year. And it’s looking good because of all the hot weather we’ve had. As long as we have the water, we should see some good corn silage yields. That will lead more dairy producers to maximize corn silage in their rations as a substitute for alfalfa.”