All hay exports from the West Coast totaled 415,057 metric tons (MT) in April, up almost 100,000 MT from last year and up 28,497 MT from March. That is the highest monthly total since March of 2017. The main Asian importing countries were responsible for the large increase. China, Japan, and South Korea were close to matching their highest monthly totals in the last three years. Exports to Taiwan, at 24,041 MT, were the highest in at least the last three years.

Export contacts said the uncertainty over the impact on supply chains caused by COVID-19 shutdowns spurred buying. This showed that while shipping was a challenge in April, exporters were still able to get hay to Asia. Our contact in China said alfalfa hay is beginning to arrive from other exporting countries, and supplies at the ports are starting to build up. The Chinese domestic production of alfalfa will also be available in June.

Off and on rain continued in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Basin, and Northern California regions over the last three weeks. The amount of high-testing alfalfa hay produced during the early cuttings has been less than normal. Some hay was rain damaged in the windrow, and cutting delays caused by rain have also hurt test results. This, together with stronger milk prices, has improved the demand for high-test hay, most notably in Idaho and California. But with delivered corn prices still cheap, in the $170s per ton range, any strengthening in high-test hay prices may be hard to come by.

Josh Callen

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