Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
LAVERNE – This time last year, cattlemen were edgy at best about whether or not they would have enough hay to purchase, no matter how high the price got.
In April of last year, trading was at a near standstill, according to the Oklahoma Hay Report and if you ask some local ranchers, like A.R. Plain of Laverne, things were pretty awful.
“You know, last year was a bad, bad, bad deal,” Plain said. “If you had cattle, whether you had one head or a thousand, you had too many.”
Anyone buying hay might have agreed.
A year ago, a round bale of good quality alfalfa was bringing on average $250-$290 per round bales. In some cases the price was up to $325, according to the Oklahoma Hay Report. And it only got worse as the summer heated up and fields dried up or were eaten down to the dirt.
This year, the same hay has come out of the clouds but is still hovering at up to $190 per ton for good to premium alfalfa, according to the latest Oklahoma Hay Report.
Plain and others in the region are slightly more optimistic, although they know any real improvement is still years away.
“Well, at least we have had a little rain and things are trying to green up a little,” Plain said. “So we have a little better shot at having some hay this year over last year. "But honestly, it will take about three years before things get back to normal. There is still a lot of brown pasture out there.”
Local hay producer and custom baler, Brant Mcatee agrees with Plain.
“I think if you don’t have any hay and you need to buy it, I’d be buying it now,” Mcatee said. “I put up some wheat hay this year and it barely made one bale an acre and that is sub par.”
While conditions have improved somewhat, Mcatee agrees with Plain, it’s not time to celebrate.
“Even though there was the rain, most guys would normally be on their second cutting and because of the freeze, are just now getting in their first cutting,” Mcatee said. “If normally these guys get five cuttings, this year, they will probably get only four.”
While alfalfa hay has dropped in price, good quality round bales of grass are holding the price line.
This year a good round bale of grass is fetching $90-$105 per ton. In April last year, the price averaged $80 to $90 per ton, but increased sharply through the year as supplies diminished, according to the hay report.
“This year, since they finally got the moisture to put it in, some guys are buying some of the feed grass seed, like hay grazer and sorghum and things like that,” Mcatee said. “They should be able to have enough moisture to get a cutting or maybe even two this year.”