Even with hay supplies at historically tight levels, weakness in the dairy sector and softening corn prices have been putting downward pressure on Pacific Northwestern alfalfa hay prices. That’s according to the April Hay Market Snapshot report from Northwest Farm Credit Services (NFCS).
In Washington’s Columbia Basin, the report notes, hay trade has been “at a near standstill ahead of first cutting.” Exporting firms are out of the market for the most part, and dairies are showing limited interest. As of early April, the price of premium-quality alfalfa was around $210/ton at the stack. At the end of December, the price was $250-275/ton.
In neighboring Idaho, dairy buyers have been active in the market, and premium alfalfa prices were firming up as of early April. Even so, prices have dropped off by $5-10/ton from the $215-225/ton range seen at the end of 2012. Feeder-quality alfalfa is fetching $190-200/ton, similar to December levels.
In Oregon’s Klamath Basin, prices for premium to supreme alfalfa range between $205 and $215/ton at the stack. That’s about $10/ton lower than in December 2012. Feeder-hay prices in the Basin reached upward of $200/ton this past winter, but were near $175/ton at the beginning of April.
Looking ahead, NFCS projects regional prices of $200-220/ton for first-cutting supreme and premium alfalfa, while feeder-hay prices of $170-190/ton are expected. Prices at those levels “will generally result in a strong return to most growers.”
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