During my 11 years with CAFA, the association has always asked Seth Hoyt to update the hay market for its members. Since he retired after working for federal and state agencies, he’s continued to make hay market analysis his No. 1 priority through his weekly reports (www.thehoytreport.com) that keep subscribers updated year around.

In mid-September Hoyt wrote an article for CAFA News and his comments have pause for thought. His latest writing reminded me of his August 2010 article that was titled, “Crop options, milk prices make for an interesting 2011.” Well, 2011 has been interesting to say the least. Sky high alfalfa prices continue and last month he noted that supreme alfalfa hay delivered to Tulare-Hanford dairies was trading at around $315 to $325 in mid-September.

The market, he said, could go higher in the following months but he doesn’t think high-test hay will reach the $400 mark this winter, a projection that some have made recently. Hoyt also said he’s “not convinced milk prices are going to be strong enough to warrant that kind of price,” adding that he’s hopeful milk won’t fall below $17 cwt.

A factor that’s also playing a role is the demand for alfalfa hay that export buyers have been seeking. Hoyt said that the overseas demand for U.S. hay is “creating heartburn for some dairymen as we enter the fall…” In the last few weeks in Nevada, he reported, export buyers were out-biding local buyers on some larger lots of alfalfa hay. He went on to say that export buyers have stepped up in California, working aggressively in the Intermountain region in the north. At the same time, there’s more activity in the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley. Once the season shuts down in the central and northern areas, said Hoyt, “a good number of dairies will not have enough hay to carry them through until next season.”  

The 2010 statement that forecasted “an interesting 2011” was right on. What’s in store for 2012? If you’re attending the 2011 Western States Alfalfa & Forage Conference in Las Vegas, Hoyt will open the program at 8:05 a.m. on Dec. 12.