Strong demand for U.S. hay products by foreign buyers continues to bolster hay prices in many parts of Oregon, reports Scott Pierson, a Silver Lake, OR, hay grower and president of the Oregon Hay and Forage Association.

“The larger exporting firms in the region were buying up lots of hay last fall to build inventories,” says Pierson. “In recent weeks, they’ve been coming through the area on a second call.”

Currently, top-quality alfalfa and timothy hay in Pierson’s area brings $230-260/ton from exporters. He’s heard some reports of sales at $280/ton.

International currency rates will play a key role in determining whether the strong demand and good prices will continue.

“A lot of people are looking closely at the Japanese yen. If it keeps weakening (relative to the U.S. dollar), we could see demand soften.” Japan, he notes, has traditionally been one of the largest buyers of U.S. hay.

At this point strong export-hay demand is keeping pressure on dairy-hay prices in Oregon and Washington. “There’s a lot of uncertainty and a lack of confidence in the dairy industry,” says Pierson. “A lot of dairy producers are sitting tight and waiting to see what will happen with the Farm Bill. A lot of dairy farmers are operating at break-even levels. That certainly doesn’t encourage any expansion. As hay growers, we all need to be cheerleaders for the dairy industry.”

He grows alfalfa, alfalfa-grass and grass hay on 375 acres. Along with export firms and commercial and specialty dairies, his markets include horse owners and feed stores in Oregon, Washington and California.

Pure orchardgrass hay, favored by many horse owners, is in short supply throughout the region, Pierson says, adding that the current at-the-barn price is $260-280/ton. “Growers who have real clean, weed-free hay can get a premium for it.”

Contact Pierson at 541-576-2889 or piersonhay@gmail.com.