Stagnant hay prices still rule

By Hay and Forage Grower

As the calendar turned to a new year, there wasn’t much new on the hay market front. The January average price for alfalfa hay retreated a modest $3 per ton from the previous month to $202, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Prices report. This was the ninth consecutive month of price decline since hitting a record-high average price of $287 per ton during April 2023. For the past three months, the average alfalfa hay price has remained between $202 and $207 per ton. This is further evidence that the market free fall is flattening.

The average price for Supreme and Premium alfalfa hay during January only dropped by $1 per ton and settled at $274.

Grass hay rose by $1 per ton to $171 in January. The gap of $31 between the alfalfa and grass hay price is now the narrowest it’s been since January 2021.

Only two states posted double-digit month-over-month gains in alfalfa price in January. Wisconsin was up $12 per ton and was followed by Pennsylvania, which was $11 higher.

Double-digit declines in the January alfalfa hay price occurred in four states. Kansas, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington were all down by $10 per ton.

The highest average January alfalfa hay prices were reported in New Mexico ($270 per ton) and Texas ($268). Pennsylvania followed at $255 while California checked in at $250 per ton.

North Dakota easily remains the lowest at $122 per ton. It was followed by Montana at $160 per ton and Nevada at $165.

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 January, the average price of Supreme and Premium alfalfa hay dropped by $1 per ton to $274. One year ago, the average price of Supreme and Premium alfalfa hay was $328 per ton.

Other hay

The January average price of other hay (mostly grass) rose slightly to $171 per ton, which was only $7 per ton lower than a year ago.

The highest January price for hay other than alfalfa was reported in Oregon and Colorado, both at $240 per ton. Washington followed at $235 per ton.

North Dakota had the lowest reported other hay average price at $86 per ton. It was followed by Oklahoma at $116 per ton.