Hay producers face oversupply until milk rises

2010-02-13T22:30:00Z Hay producers face oversupply until milk risesBy TOM MAST Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
February 13, 2010 10:30 pm  • 

CASPER — A glut of Wyoming hay probably won’t be soaked up quickly, a state expert says. And while lower feed prices are good for livestock producers, the same can’t be said for people in the hay business.

“I hate to bring bad conditions to anybody, but somebody’s going to have to have a crop failure to use some of that old hay,” said Donn Randall, crop and forage program manager for the Wyoming Business Council.

The problem started last summer with heavy rains at the wrong time. That affected the quality of hay, Randall said. There also was lots of hay, including prairie grass, so many producers didn’t run short over the winter.

In addition, the dairy industry has taken a beating. Wyoming’s best quality hay often has been destined for dairy use. Randall said until milk prices improve, the backlog of hay is likely to keep mounting.

State hay producers, especially those with fixed irrigation costs, probably will grow even more hay next summer. “They’re pretty much tied to going out and putting up hay,” he said. “I don’t foresee them doing anything differently.”

Randall hopes to begin a program that helps producers market commodities, including hay and forage. “The big challenge is trying to find alternative markets,” he said.

In today’s market, Randall said prices for some hay could be off $20 to $40 from a year ago. On Feb. 11, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quoted eastern Wyoming alfalfa premium small squares for horses at $120 to $135 per ton. But some poorer quality hay was quoted as low as $50. Trade and movement were rated as very slow, with hay prices mostly steady.

Contact Tom Mast at tom.mast@trib.com or 307-266-0574.

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