Tom Crook of Desert Sun Farming is pretty optimistic about the upcoming growing season, the first harvest of which is likely to begin the end of this week in his Blythe, CA, area.

For starters, the crop came through the winter in very good shape. “We had a little frost in January,” says Crook, vice chairman of the California Alfalfa and Forage Association. “We took a clipping to keep the damage to a minimum. And, for the most part, the crop grew out of it.”

In a typical year, Crook puts up alfalfa on 8,000 flood-irrigated acres. Hay is baled in three-tie small squares and 3 x 4’ large squares. Roughly 40% of the farm’s production is earmarked for retail stores serving horse owners in California, New Mexico and Arizona. The rest of the production is split equally between the export and dairy markets.

Demand in all three markets has remained mostly steady throughout the winter, says Crook. “There is some concern about instability in the dairy market and what that might mean for hay prices. But both the retail and export markets have been solid. And, for right now, anyway, it looks like things will stay that way.”

Currently, clean, soft and green alfalfa is bringing $240/ton in the horse market in the region. “That’s if the hay has been barn-stored,” says Crook. “Otherwise, the going price is closer to $205-215/ton.”

For dairy hay, the price has been hovering around $220/ton. Across the board, alfalfa prices throughout the region have been close to year-ago levels throughout most of the winter.

To contact Crook, call 760-922-0231 or email tom@desertsunfarming.com. For more on Western hay prices, see our story, “Expect Softer Western Alfalfa-Hay Prices, Analyst Says.”