Drought has contributed to a robust market for Wyoming hay producers this summer.

Lloyd Dechert, who along with his son operates Wyoming Hay Cubes near Riverton, said there’s strong demand for any kind of hay going south. He’s been fielding several calls a day for hay.

“Part of it is everybody’s nervous about what’s going to happen from here on,” he said, “and they want to get their hay while it’s available, or they think it’s available.”

Kem Nicolaysen, with the Cole Creek Sheep Co. near Casper, said adequate water the past two years has allowed them to produce extra hay. The excess provides a nice source of additional income for the ranch, especially at current prices.

Donn Randall, crop and forage program manager for the Wyoming Business Council, said hay export markets are up 20 percent from two years ago and drought has seared large areas of the South and Southwest.

For example, Arkansas, which provides large hay supplies to Texas, is only getting about half its normal hay crop this year. Texas and Oklahoma have been stricken by heat waves this summer.

In addition, with high corn prices, some growers switched from alfalfa to corn, he said.

“It’s a mad scramble to get hay anywhere,” Randall said.

For the first time in several years, he noted, Wyoming producers are “price setters rather than price takers.”

On July 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Torrington reported strong demand for hay: “Very good interest has been noted from out-of-state buyers.”

For eastern Wyoming new-crop alfalfa, premium to supreme large squares were selling for between $180 and $205 a ton, while good to premium large squares were fetching prices in the $150-to-$180 range.

Demand for high-quality hay for the dairy market has been strong. Randall said milk prices are about $10 per hundredweight higher on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange than a couple years ago.

Randall is cautioning producers not to sell hay on a promise or handshake. “If they want hay, they have to wire their money in advance,” he said. “If they won’t, then I wouldn’t sell to them.”

“I just caution people to be aware of hay scalpers,” he added, “because they’re out there.”

Wyoming’s climate and geography — low humidity, high elevation and cool nights — contribute to superior hay quality. Among other things, Randall said Wyoming hay is distinguished by a higher percentage of total digestible nutrients than Midwest hay.

“Our hay cures out quicker, has less sun bleach and we can bale it in so much better condition,” he said.

Contact Business Editor Tom Mast at tom.mast@trib.com, or call 307-266-0574. Follow him on Twitter @masts.

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