Year-over-year alfalfa price spread hits $25

By Hay and Forage Grower

As a general rule, the annual top of the alfalfa hay market comes in April or May. This year, the average April price followed the script and jumped $6 per ton.

Did the May price do the same? Well . . . no. The average May alfalfa price actually dropped by $2 per ton to $179, according to the latest USDA Agricultural Prices report. It likely means we’ve seen the high for 2020. Furthermore, that May average is $25 per ton below a year ago.

Only two states posted double-digit price gains, and those were New York and Pennsylvania, both were up $10 per ton from the previous month.

Price decliners were led by Oklahoma and Washington, both being down $20 per ton. Idaho and Illinois each dropped by $10 per ton.

The highest average alfalfa hay prices were reported in Pennsylvania ($251 per ton), New York ($233), Colorado ($230), and New Mexico ($225).

The lowest prices were posted in North Dakota ($85 per ton), South Dakota ($102), and Nebraska ($111).

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 also tracks the prices of Premium and Supreme quality alfalfa in the major dairy states and determines an average price from the five leading milk-producing states. This data is being used to determine feed prices in the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

For May, the average price of Premium and Supreme alfalfa hay increased by a meager $2 per ton to $211. A year ago, the average price of Premium and Supreme alfalfa hay was $222 per ton.

Other hay

The May average price of other hay (mostly grass hay) finally rebounded after two consecutive months of decline. The average price for hay other than alfalfa was pegged at $131 per ton, which was $6 higher than the previous month but was $21 below May 2019.

The highest prices for hay other than alfalfa were reported in Colorado ($235 per ton), Arizona ($185), Nevada ($175), and Washington ($175).

States with the lowest reported other hay average prices included North Dakota ($67 per ton), South Dakota ($79), and Nebraska ($87).