Just as first cutting was getting started in the Northwest, a late spring storm arrived; this gave credence to the adage “If you need to start a rainstorm, cut some hay.” Parts of the Southern Columbia Basin and western Idaho had hay on the ground while most growers paused cutting. The scattered but heavy rain lasted for around five days before growers were able to resume cutting. With the rain and the delay in cutting, some export buyers are concerned there will be less high-testing, high-appearance hay than normal for first cutting. So far in the Northwest, prices on new crop alfalfa hay have averaged $15 to $20 lower than last year. The drop in first-cutting alfalfa hay prices in the region has not been as steep as some expected, given prices on first cutting in California. My contacts cited the weather issues, improving economic conditions, and good but cautious export demand have been price supportive factors.

Prices on dairy products have hit yearly highs after dropping to multi-year lows back in April. Government support programs and dairymen’s own efforts to lower milk production have worked. With all the uncertainty, nobody feels like we’re out of the woods yet, but there is some optimism. Hay brokers have said that interest from dairies has been better and dairymen’s moods have improved. To lower their milk production, some dairies began feeding more mid-grade alfalfa hay to milk cows. It will be interesting to see if that continues with the improvement in milk prices.

Josh Callen

Author of The Hoyt Report, providing hay market analysis and insight.