Hay prices are high in California, but water concerns and high grain prices mean hay acres actually decreased from last fall to this spring, says Dan Putnam, University of California-Davis extension forage specialist. “Hay supplies are fairly limited and transportation costs are through the roof,” he says. “We had an extremely dry spring with few rains in March, April and May. Irrigation had to start earlier than normal in many areas. Legal decisions have impacted water availability in the San Joaquin Valley and other areas, leading to a lack of confidence in whether water will actually be there when needed.” Consequently, some hay growers are deciding against increasing their hay acres. “Some growers are postponing planting hay crops as more and more people plant wheat and corn,” Putnam reports.
The number of acres devoted to corn silage continues to increase as more dairies use it as a less-expensive option in rations. “There will likely be 500,000-600,000 acres of corn silage grown in California this year,” Putnam says.
Learn more about hay production in California at alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/. Contact Putnam at 530-752-8982.