In the lower Midwest, alfalfa conditions are a little better this year after a dry, hot summer and fall season. Because of an early spring, coupled with beneficial spring rains, the outlook for the alfalfa crop in most Midwestern states is looking favorable.

Bruce Anderson, professor of agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, reports alfalfa is at least 2 to 3 weeks ahead of schedule across most of the Midwest. He expects higher yields as a result. In fact, in southeastern Nebraska, farmers are reporting they have completed their first cutting. In Jefferson County, dairy demand is high and farmers are currently meeting those needs with high quality alfalfa.

But in spite of a healthy spring crop, the overall number of alfalfa acres is down across the Midwest.

“One good piece of news is that the price of hay has dropped considerably, thanks to a quick start to the growing season and the rains,” Trostle says. “Hay producers in Texas are already working on their second crop. In Hudspeth County, near El Paso, a grower runs about 8,000 acres of alfalfa and I understand he’s getting the water he needs for irrigation. So we are producing alfalfa in scattered areas across the state.”

In the panhandle it is a “hit and miss” landscape. Rain has fallen in select areas while much of the region remains dry and wanting. In East Texas, Trostle says adequate soil conditions and substantial winter and spring rains have provided good acres for alfalfa and other hay varieties and local needs are being met.

But Trostle doesn’t expect a grand recovery of alfalfa acreage any time soon. While he says Roundup Ready varieties offer potential to help spur alfalfa production in Texas, input costs are up and adequate water remains a concern.

“But there are other areas in the state where alfalfa may be growing. Texas Extension agents Joe Janak in Victoria and Dr. Jamie Foster in Beeville have been working with forage crops and there is some alfalfa production in those areas,” he said.

As of mid-May, hay prices are reported down with some bales bringing as little as $140 in some areas. With spring supplies up slightly and demand trending downward, hay may continue to be available until the summer heats up. Until then, as always, it depends largely on the weather.