Average feeding rates of dry alfalfa hay declined in California during 2014 as the average cost of hay pushed over $300 per ton. This trend was documented in the California Cost of Production Annual 2014, which is produced each year by the state's Department of Food and Agriculture Cost of Production Unit.
The herds analyzed in the study fed over 9 pounds of alfalfa hay per cow per day through most of 2013 and into the first quarter of 2014. The amount of dry hay fed dropped by about 1 pound through the remainder of 2014 and actually averaged below 8 pounds in the third quarter of the year. During this period, alfalfa prices being paid by the dairies climbed to over $300 per ton.
The 12-month weighted average price paid for alfalfa hay by Holstein dairies in the study was $290.64 per ton; these farms fed an average of 9.17 pounds of hay (as fed) per cow per day. The Jersey herds paid $321.68 per ton for alfalfa hay, feeding a daily average of 6.07 pounds per cow.
California currently has about 1.78 million dairy cows. For more information on the cost of production survey, go to http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/dairy/dairycop_annual.html.