Despite a relatively good first cutting, alfalfa hay supplies are likely to tighten up toward the end of the year in parts of eastern Washington, says grower Shawn Clausen, owner of Stockrose Farm near Warden.
“My observation, driving down the road, is that after first-crop harvest was wrapped up, a lot of acres were being plowed up for double cropping with crops like silage corn, sweet corn, peas and dry beans. I have a tough time believing the alfalfa acres (for a big crop) are going to be out there for the rest of the season.”
Weather for first-crop harvest in the region was mostly favorable. “We had a good two to three weeks of dry weather. About 70% of the alfalfa in the Upper Columbia Basin got put up without any rain on it,” says Clausen, who harvests 2,000 acres of alfalfa for the export, dairy and feeder markets.
Export firms have replaced dairies as the market drivers for alfalfa hay prices in the region, he says. Currently, new-crop alfalfa is selling for $160-225/ton depending on quality. That’s down $20/ton from year-ago levels. “Most of the (export) interest so far has been for timothy. The alfalfa market has been slow. There have been a few buyers looking, but it’s not an aggressive market by any means.”
A weakening Japanese yen plays a role in the lower hay prices. Japan is traditionally a major buyer of alfalfa and timothy hay out of the Pacific Northwest. “The devaluation of the yen has cut into their purchasing power,” explains Clausen. “In other overseas markets, buyers have built up their inventories. They need to move some product before they can get too aggressive in buying new hay. A few years ago, they bought heavily early only to see prices drop. They don’t want to get caught up in that kind of scenario again. They’re being careful.”
To contact Clausen, call 509-750-9822 or email email@example.com.