After a challenging year, hay growers in the West are ready to put 2016 in the rearview mirror and are hopeful for better times ahead. It has become more evident in the past 10 years how hay markets are much different than in the 1960s when I was a teenager growing up on the family ranch in north central California. Hay prices made very few changes back then. This is verified by USDA data that shows that between 1961 and 1967 the yearly average alfalfa hay price in the U.S. (average price for all qualities) ranged from $21 to $24.70 per ton, a difference of $3.70 per ton. Conversely, between 2009 and 2015 the average U.S. alfalfa hay price ranged from $113 to $211 per ton, a difference of $98. The average price in September 2016 was $137. Supreme alfalfa hay delivered to Tulare, Calif., dairies in September 2016 was $100 to $115 per ton lower than the record-high prices in September 2014.