Hay prices high as 2012 drought has wreaked havoc on supplies

This year the hay market is a seller's market regardless of feed quality.

It is shaping up to be a very dull winter hay marketing season. And it is not because of the prices, which are at historical highs, but because there is so little hay left to sell.

There is still some hay available from time to time on the Michigan Hay Sellers List but in my 21 years of operating the list this is the smallest amount of hay that we have ever offered. The culprit is the 2012 drought, which reduced hay supplies by 15-30 percent across the Midwest. Compound that with less hay acres available overall and it is easy to understand that there is very little hay still left for sale in Michigan.

A few cash crop farms wanted to get done harvesting corn before they offered their hay crop for sale and there are always a few farms that like to wait until the new tax year to sell. As a veteran hay marketing educator, with this strong demand I would estimate that 85 percent of the 2012 hay crop to be sold is already gone.

There does seem to be more hay offered for sale in Wisconsin, and farms looking for a quantity of hay might want to look at the Wisconsin hay listing service.

Though it seems like the sky is the limit for hay prices there are some market averages that seem to be taking shape in Michigan. The price ranges are large only because some sellers are reluctant to charge regular customers extremely high prices. Higher feed-quality hays always sell for a premium and that norm is holding true in this year’s market. However, because of the very short supply the low-quality first-cutting grass hays are not being discounted much below the higher-quality hays. If it is free of dust and mold it has been selling for prices that indicate little concern for its feed quality. It is believed that these prices will remain high until at least the next growing season because the supply is so low.

Bale type


Small square bales (45 lbs. avg.)

$265/ton ($6/bale) - $535/ton ($12/bale)

Large round bales (875 lbs. avg.)

$140/ton ($60/bale) - $300/ton ($130/bale)

Large square bales (725 lbs. avg.)

$180/ton ($65/bale) - $400/ton ($140/bale)

Michigan State University Extension advises that all hay transactions be conducted on a weight basis, for example, by weighing the hay and selling on a per-ton basis, as bale weights can vary widely and can be misleading when selling on a per-bale basis.

For more information on hay marketing and hay supplies, contact Jerry Lundquist at 231-832-6139 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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