The last two months have been both busy and interesting as a number of things have surfaced. Forage symposiums are always intriguing and informative. Videos or written proceedings of the 2012 conference are available at alfalfa.ucdavis.edu. One of the proceedings that caught my eye was Current Hay & Forage Market Trends, which was presented by hay market analyst Seth Hoyt who writes a weekly newsletter, The Hoyt Report.

I was interested to see what’s likely ahead for the export market. The Western dairy industry, of course, still drives the hay market. But last year’s export season helped keep the market from dropping lower during another extremely difficult year for dairymen. Exports increased by 23 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, while prices decreased by as much as $30 to $50 per ton. However, said Hoyt, “It was the opinion of many in the California and Western hay industry that had it not been for export demand in 2012, alfalfa and other hay prices would have been even lower.” It’s expected that China will buy twice the amount of hay this year and some Middle East countries may buy more alfalfa.

(See related: China’s interest in US alfalfa grows)

In January, Hoyt spoke at the Washington Hay Growers Conference. In The Hoyt Report newsletter on Jan. 19, he wrote about several interesting developments discussed at the Washington conference. In December, Saudi Arabia’s biggest dairy bought a 30,500-acre farm in Argentina. The mega dairy milks about 100,000 cows, and another dairy in Saudi Arabia milks 40,000 cows in one location.

Hoyt also said a speaker in Washington mentioned that China has 15 million dairy cows and the government is on track to double milk production in the next five years. “Alfalfa hay usage will be huge in China in the coming years,” he said, adding that “they are involved in alfalfa hay production in South Africa and South America.”

The more hay that is exported the more it’s likely that alfalfa will get another cheap shot about sending water overseas, something that CAFA has dealt with before. During the drought several years ago a writer in Southern California brought up the subject. Then last October a lawyer and a professor in Arizona sent an article to the Wall Street Journal titled, ‘Parched in the West but Shipping Water to China, Bale by Bale.’

(See related: Wall Street Journal alfalfa op-ed stirs CAFA response)

CAFA was surprised and the article was rebutted by a number of readers who sent letters to the WSJ editor. In early December, a UC Alfalfa & Forage News blog, written by UC Forage Extension Specialist Dan Putnam, defended alfalfa with a wide range of information. Hay only ranks 16th in value of ag commodities exported from California, but I don’t recall other commodities being criticized, nor should they be. To read Putnam’s blog see, “Is Shipping Water To China In Alfalfa Hay Immoral?"