Growers in the San Joaquin Valley started baling this week as the forecast finally calls for some dry days. After suffering through one of the driest Februarys on record for Central California, rain returned in the months of March and April. While not particularly heavy in most areas, the storms were spaced apart enough to prevent growers from cutting. Earlier in the month, a few growers did cut some alfalfa, but they had to rush baling with rain on the way before the hay had dried fully. While baling normally starts in the south end of the Central Valley, that area received the most rain and is behind other areas.
This week should give a good test of the alfalfa hay market. As milk prices began to drop resulting from coronavirus shutdowns, interest from dairies to contract forage crops came to a halt. Dairies are back in survival mode. Prices of other dairy ration components also have gone in different direction, which may cause some to adjust their rations.
As of now, new crop Supreme dairy alfalfa hay in the Desert Southwest region is trading around $15 lower than a year ago. The average delivered price on Supreme alfalfa hay to Central California dairies coming from the Desert Southwest is about $5 to $8 lower, but the range has been about the same. With a lot of factors still to play out, the next few weeks should give us some more information on where the 2020 dairy alfalfa market is going.