Straw from Canada is making its way south to auctions in Dyersville and Fort Atkinson as a tight hay market continues to generate strong demand and relatively high prices.
Randy Hess, co-owner of Dyersville Sales, said more straw than hay was offered for sale at Wednesday's weekly auction.
"Canada has a surplus of straw," Hess said. "There are a lot of truckers who are hauling it cheaply because they're backhauling with farm equipment.
"We're not seeing a lot of hay because everyone is busy with the corn and bean harvest. All of the trucks have a grain trailer behind them instead of a flatbed.
"Once we get the harvest under control, I think we will see more hay coming to market."
Jim Humpal, yard foreman at the Fort Atkinson Hay Auction, said loads of straw are being trucked from Manitoba by trucks hauling John Deere equipment from plants in Dubuque and Waterloo back to Canadian dealers.
"We get at least one load of straw each week from that area," Humpal said. "We're also getting hay from Duluth, Minn., and Alexandria, Minn.
"Any good quality hay is worth $200 a bale right now. A farmer with their shed full of top quality hay wants $3oo a bale."
Hay is selling for $100 a ton higher than it sold for a month ago, Humpal said. CRP grass, which is old grass with a lower nutritional value, is bringing up to $200 a ton, he added.
"We're trying to convince farmers to feed their cattle straw, which they can buy for $120 a ton," Humpal said.
Hess believes livestock producers will begin liquidating their herds if Iowa gets a normal cold, snowy winter and hay prices remain at current levels.
"If we have a mild winter, it will help like hell," Hess said. "Cows will be able to get into the fields and eat corn stover like they did last winter.
"If we get a normal old fashioned mean Iowa winter and the fields are covered with snow by early December, I think we could see an awful lot of liquidations. Producers will have to buy hay all winter and that could get pretty expensive at today's prices."
In its weekly report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service said hay supplies are considered short across 43 percent of Iowa with just over one-third of the hay supply considered in good condition. Only 24 percent of the state's of pasture and range land is rated in fair or better condition.
Livestock producers continue to move cattle to recently harvested fields as well as feeding hay, as pasture conditions remain poor.Some producers also have been chopping drought-affected corn for silage.