Did July alfalfa hay really jump by $31 per ton?

By Mike Rankin

For three straight months, the average price of alfalfa hay rose by $1 per ton, according to USDA’s Agricultural Prices report. Then the report for July hay prices was released, which indicated the average price jumped by $31 per ton on the strength of huge price increases in California and Nevada.

Whether this unprecedented leap in July hay price is real due to drought, a correction, or the result of new price sources is unknown at this time. Hay & Forage Grower has a request into USDA for an explanation but hasn’t received a response as of this writing.

The average price of alfalfa during July was $276 per ton, which was $70 per ton above a year ago.

For the first time ever, a state posted a month-to-month triple-digit gain: Nevada was $115 per ton higher, going from $215 in June to $330 in July. Twelve states issued double-digit gains in their average alfalfa hay price. California led this group with its plus $90 per ton gain. Others in the double-digit gain group included Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

Double-digit declines in alfalfa hay price during July occurred in three states. Minnesota was down by $15 per ton and was followed by North Dakota (down $11) and Michigan (down $10).

The highest average alfalfa hay price was reported in California at $340 per ton. Arizona, Nevada, and Washington all checked in at $330 per ton.

The Midwestern states posted the lowest hay prices. Wisconsin was lowest at $144 per ton. It was followed by Iowa and North Dakota at $160.

Keep in mind that the USDA average prices account for all qualities and bale types 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.

Supreme and Premium

The USDA also tracks the prices of Supreme and Premium quality alfalfa in the major dairy states and determines an average price from the five top milk-producing states (California, Idaho, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin). This data is used to determine feed prices in the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

For July, the average price of Supreme and Premium alfalfa hay rose by a record of $56 per ton to $333. One year ago, the average price of Supreme and Premium alfalfa hay was $240 per ton.

Other hay

The July average price of other hay (mostly grass) rose by $18 per ton to $164, which was $11 per ton higher than one year ago.

The highest July prices for hay other than alfalfa were reported in Washington ($340 per ton), California ($305), and Nevada ($300). California was up $130 per ton from June while Nevada was up $100.

North Dakota had the lowest reported other hay average price at $96 per ton. It was followed by Oklahoma at $99.