Has the alfalfa hay price hit bottom?

By Hay and Forage Grower

The December average price for alfalfa hay retreated a modest $2 per ton from the previous month, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Prices report. This was the eighth consecutive month of price decline since hitting a record-high average price of $287 per ton during April 2023. The average alfalfa hay price settled at $205 per ton during December, putting it $63 per ton lower than one year ago.

Although being down once again in December, the $2 drop was the smallest such month-over-month decline during the past eight months. Further, we are entering a period where hay prices have historically rebounded from harvest-season lows. Although there’s no reason to expect prices to climb back to last year’s levels, there is evidence that the free fall in prices is flattening.

The average price for Supreme and Premium alfalfa hay during December climbed by $4 per ton and settled at $275.

For the second month in a row, grass hay was pegged at $170 per ton in December. The gap of $35 between the alfalfa and grass hay price is the narrowest it’s been since March 2021.

Four states posted double-digit month-over-month gains in alfalfa price in December. California was up $25 per ton and was followed by Pennsylvania, which was $20 higher. The other two states were New York (up $16) and South Dakota (up $10).

Double-digit declines in the December alfalfa hay price occurred in eight states. Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah were all down $20 per ton while Kansas had a $15 decline in price. Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, and Wyoming were down by $10 per ton from the previous month.

The highest average December alfalfa hay price was reported in New Mexico and Texas, both at $270 per ton. Oregon followed at $250 while Colorado and California checked in at $245 per ton.

North Dakota easily remains the lowest at $117 per ton. It was followed by Montana at $160 per ton and South Dakota at $170.

Keep in mind that USDA average prices account for all qualities and bale types of hay sold. Also, the final U.S. estimate is a volume-weighted average rather than a simple average of state values. Those states with the most volume sales will impact the final U.S. dollar value more than those states with fewer sales.

Supreme and Premium

The USDA also tracks the prices of Supreme and Premium quality alfalfa in the major dairy states and determines an average price from the five top milk-producing states (California, Idaho, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin). This data is used to determine feed prices in the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

For December, the average price of Supreme and Premium alfalfa hay rose by $4 per ton to $275, after dropping by $7 per ton in November. One year ago, the average price of Supreme and Premium alfalfa hay was $327 per ton.

Other hay

The December average price of other hay (mostly grass) held steady at $170 per ton, which was $10 per ton lower than a year ago.

The highest December price for hay other than alfalfa was reported in Oregon, Colorado, and Washington at $240 per ton. New Mexico followed at $225 per ton.

North Dakota had the lowest reported other hay average price at $86 per ton. It was followed by Oklahoma at $110 per ton.