Before hay sellers get excited about reaping high prices for hay, as they did a few years ago, they need to take inventory of what this season has produced so far. Ample to excessive rains in April through June produced lots of growth. The hay often wasn't made at the right time, meaning quality may not be as high as some like or are used to getting, but the volume was there. It's the third and fourth cuttings of legume hay that are in jeopardy. There are seldom third cuttings for grass hay anyway. If third and fourth cuttings are light, there may be a shortage of high-quality legume hay that usually comes form those cuttings. However, volume harvested from those cuttings is usually less than volume harvested from the first two cuttings anyway. So it's tough yet to make a case that overall hay supply will be short.
That's what most hay producers are saying. However, one producer, who operates in an area where there are few other suppliers, says he doesn't believe there will be nearly as much hay around to buy this fall and winter. He's optimistic that hay prices will be relatively high.
Sale of 200 bales of grass hay at an auction barn last week doesn't bear him out, at least not yet. It was grass hay, but they were sound bales and appeared to be of average quality. The hay sold from $2.25 to $2 per bale. Whether that's representative or not will remain to be seen.
Normally when drought hits and pastures dry up, some producers, especially those with small herds and limited pasture, begin liquidating their herd, sending culls to market to preserve what forage they have for the rest of the herd. Based on the same general livestock auction, that isn't happening yet either. In central Indiana, at least, temperatures have been searing, but the area went into the drought period with soil reserves full enough that pastures are still green for the most part. It doesn't appear that most people are running out of pasture yet.In last season's drought, which developed somewhat later and ran through early fall, people did start feeding hay much earlier than normal. Pastures of cool-season grasses simply quit and gave up early. It's too early to tell if that may happen again this year.