"So why is this important? As we know, alfalfa and grass quality will vary greatly based on maturity at the time of harvest, conditions it was put up under, and storage methods. Thus, it has given us a way to value the product based upon its quality at the time of utilization," Renelt said.
When determining a fair price, Renelt says growers should consider the method they used to put the hay up.
"Was the hay put up as a large round bale or small or large square bale or as balage? Was it net wrapped, twine wrapped, or plastic wrapped? Is it plastic twine or sisal twine? Has it sat out and been rained on since harvest or has it been stored in the shed? All these things should be considered when pricing your commodity," she said.
The last item growers should consider is the hay's appearance.
"Growers need to visually inspect the hay to determine if there is noxious weed seeds present, mold present or if there is foreign material present in the hay," Renelt said. "All of which can change the price received and will not show up on an NIRS analysis. Additionally, if state or locally noxious weed seeds are present it will prevent you from transporting or selling the product according to state law."
For growers wanting to know what say is selling for, Renelt suggests they visit a Web site maintained by the USDA which provides a weekly market update on hay markets; http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ . Click on the Market News link and then click on Livestock, Meats, Grain and Hay, then click on Hay, under Browse by Commodity. Growers who do not have internet access, can contact their Regional Extension Center.