Current Hay Conditions in Ohio

Maurice L. Eastridge, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University

The weather conditions have been variable in Ohio this summer. Some areas have been extremely dry and other areas have been very wet during the past two to three months.  Thus, hay yield and quality are quite variable across Ohio. For those areas that have been very dry, yields have been adversely affected, even though the quality of the hay harvested may be rather good. For the areas that have been wet, it has been very difficult to get the second and three cutting harvested. Thus, even though yields may be respectable, quality has been adversely affected. Therefore, many livestock farmers in Ohio need additional hay for the winter. In some cases, they need to purchase hay of higher quality than they have on hand. Now is the time to make such purchases as the last cuttings of the year are occurring and before prices creep up post harvest as supply diminishes with ample demand.

Some resources are provided in this article that you may find useful in locating hay or determining the prices for which to buy or sell. A couple of sources of hay include Farm and Dairy’s hay listing ( and the online listing by state with Hay Exchange  ( Many areas have local auctions for hay, but a few of the larger auctions in Ohio are the Kidron and Mt. Hope Auctions listed in Table 1. As noted, prices are quite variable, caused primarily by quality and demand. The USDA Ag Market News also provides current prices for hay in several areas of the US, including New Holland, PA (Table 1).

Pricing of hay

The value of hay demands on its nutrient composition and balance of supply and demand. The prices in Table 1 are affected by each of these aspects. In each issue of the Buckeye Dairy News (BDN) ( an article is provided that provides the predicted value of feeds based on chemical composition and current prices of commodities, including the predicted price for alfalfa hay of varying quality. For example, in the July 2016 issue of BDN, alfalfa hay was priced at $190 (16% CP, 48% NDF) to $236/ton (24% CP, 32% NDF). Based on the July prices for nutrients published in the BDN, the following associations were made that can be used for pricing hay based on quality:

  • Composition of CP and NDF (DM basis): $/Ton (as-fed) = (6.89 * %CP) + (2.51 * %NDF), e.g. hay with 18% CP and 35%NDF = (6.89 * 18) + (2.51 * 35) = $212/ton
  • Relative Feed Value: RFV * 1.96, e.g. hay with RFV of 140 = 140 * 1.96 = $274/ton

These price estimates are based on primarily the nutritional value of the hay based on current prices for commodities as of the end of July 2016. Of course, these commodity prices are influenced my market pressures. Yet, as the market prices change for the appraisal set of commodities used, these equations will be invalid to use.

Also, as farmers buy and sell hay, it is helpful to know the expected quality measures relative to the hay available. Therefore, the average, range, and standard deviation for alfalfa, mixed mostly legume, mixed mostly grass, and grass hay analyzed during the 12 months prior to April 30, 2016 at the Dairy One lab in Ithaca, NY have been provided in Table 2. You will note that the variations for DM are rather low, but the variations increase with the other variables, some of them being quite high. As expected, the variation is higher for the mixed hay in comparison to the alfalfa or grass hay.

As we reach mid-September, the window for harvesting hay narrows, especially for alfalfa to give it an opportunity to build root reserves before winter. Even for harvesting grass hay, it becomes difficult to get it dry with the heavy dews, shorter days, and intermittent fall showers. So the merchandising of hay is at a prime time to meet the needs of the buyer and the availability from the seller. Following the local and reported market conditions and the possible upper value based on the equations in this article can provide a negotiating range for the seller and buyer to make a deal. Although supply is almost set for local hay, the demand can change and always consider the options of buying western hay.

Table 1. Recent prices for hay in northeast Ohio and southeast Pennsylvania.

Market/Item Price ($/ton)
Kidron Auction, August 251
  First cutting hay 230-250
  Second cutting hay 250-310
  Third cutting hay 260-350
  Large hay bales 70-80
Mt. Hope Auction, August 312
  Alfalfa, second cutting 250-325
  Alfalfa, third & fourth cutting 175-400
  Mixed hay, first cutting 50-250
  Mixed hay, second cutting 250-325
  Large bales 30-270
New Holland, PA (wk of Aug 29)3,4
    Large alfalfa hay bales 140-145
    Small squares
          Premium 230
          Fair 90
    Large squares
          Supreme 225-250
          Premium 180-205
          Fair 105-125
     Small squares
        Supreme 300
        Premium 210-250
     Large squares
        Premium 150-200
        Good 120-170
        Fair 80-125
    Small squares
       Premium 250-320
       Good 140-195
       Fair 80-125

1Kidron Auction, Kidron, OH;
2Mt. Hope Auction, Mt. Hope, OH;
3Market information from USDA Ag Market News,
4Alfalfa quality guidelines: Supreme = > 22% CP, < 27% ADF, < 34% NDF, and > 185 RFV; Premium = 20-22% CP, 27-29% ADF, 34-36% NDF, and 170-185 RFV; Good = 18-20% CP, 29-32% ADF, 36-40% NDF, and 150-170 RFV; Fair = 16-18% CP, 32-25% ADF, 40-44% NDF, and 130-150 RFV. Grass quality guidelines: Premium = > 13% CP, Good = 9-13% CP, and Fair = 5-9% CP.

Table 2. Average composition of legume and grass hay during the past year (range; standard deviation).1,2

Forage % DM % CP % NDF RFV RFQ
Legume hay 90.2
Mixed hay, mostly legume 90.3
Mixed hay, mostly grass  91.4
Grass hay  92.0

1Data available from Dairy One, Ithaca, NY,; Data from time period of May 1, 2015 through April 30, 2016.
2Abbreviations: DM = dry matter, CP = crude protein, NDF = neutral detergent fiber, RFV = relative forage value, and RFQ = relative forage quality.