Alfalfa breaks $200 mark for May

By Mike Rankin

It was back in early February, when the average alfalfa hay price was $180 per ton, that we offered this prediction: “Given where the market currently stands and the hay stocks situation, it’s conceivable, maybe even likely, that the average alfalfa hay price could hit $200 per ton by spring.

That statement came to fruition in the latest USDA Agricultural Prices report as the average alfalfa hay price climbed $5 to $204 per ton. Premium and Supreme alfalfa hay also moved higher in the top U.S. milk-producing states.

The last time we had a monthly alfalfa hay price that exceeded $200 per ton was August 2014 when it hit $207. During that same year, the average price peaked in May at $227 per ton.

The May average alfalfa hay price was $15 per ton higher than one year ago. From the end of December until the end of May, the average price for alfalfa has risen $24 per ton. It’s typical for hay prices to peak in either April or May, but that trend may be challenged this year as difficult harvest conditions persist in many regions.

The leading alfalfa hay price gainers in May were Wisconsin (up $33 per ton), Arizona (up $20), and Iowa (up $13). Michigan and Ohio both registered a $10 per ton gain.

Alfalfa price declines of note were found in Kansas (down $20 per ton) and Nevada (down $15). California and Oklahoma both dropped by $10 per ton.

The highest average alfalfa hay prices were reported from New Mexico ($245 per ton), Arizona ($240), Colorado ($230), and Pennsylvania ($230).

The lowest prices were recorded in North Dakota ($85 per ton), South Dakota ($117), and Nebraska ($123).

Keep in mind that the USDA average prices account for all qualities of hay sold. Also, the final U.S. estimate is a volume-weighted average rather than a simple average of state values. Those states with the most volume sales will impact the final U.S. dollar value more than those states with fewer sales.

The USDA now tracks the prices of Premium and Supreme quality hay in the major dairy states. This data is being used to determine feed prices in the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

For May, the average price of Premium and Supreme alfalfa hay climbed $3 from April to $222 per ton. California, Minnesota, and Texas experienced price declines.

Other hay

The May price of other hay (mostly grass hay) rose by $1 to $152 per ton. This value is $30 per ton higher than the previous year and marks the 11th consecutive month without a price decline.

The highest price for hay other than alfalfa was reported in Colorado ($220 per ton), Arizona ($200), and Pennsylvania ($200).

States with the lowest reported other hay average prices included North Dakota ($68 per ton), Kansas ($83), South Dakota ($94), and Nebraska ($95).