Looking back at the alfalfa hay market in the West during 2018, export hay buyers were more aggressive early in the season with strong demand from China being a big reason. With depressed milk prices, dairy demand was below normal. The strong export demand died in early July when China instituted tariffs on alfalfa hay coming from the U.S.
Even with the tariffs, Premium export alfalfa hay prices on big bales in Washington’s Columbia Basin during early September were at $185 to $190 per ton FOB (freight on board) for wrapped stacks. This was $25 per ton higher than the previous year.
Later in the season, export demand improved in some areas of the West with more demand from the Middle East. Due to low milk prices, demand from dairy hay buyers was sluggish throughout 2018.
Better than normal hay production weather this past season was the main factor for lower supplies of feeder hay in the West. For example, Fair alfalfa hay prices in Idaho during mid-December were $140 to $145 FOB stacks, compared to $100 to $125 the year before.