Don’t expect major alfalfa acreage surge in 2008

Over the last six years CAFA has been fortunate to rely on Seth Hoyt’s expertise in sizing up hay market trends and making forecasts that are right on the money. A senior economist for the National Ag Statistics Service field office in Sacramento, Hoyt has more than 30 years of experience and his passion for serving the alfalfa and forage industry is evident in the articles that he writes for CAFA’s newsletter.

At the end of this year Hoyt will retire from government service and will then launch the “Hoyt Report” newsletter early next year. The weekly newsletter will update growers in California and other Western states on hay market trends and forecasts. Subscribers will get the benefit of his 30-plus years in the business and the many valuable contacts he has developed. CAFA looks forward to continuing to work with Hoyt as he begins his new venture. Knowing Seth as we do, subscribers to his weekly newsletter will get their money’s worth and then some.

In his most recent article for CAFA News, Hoyt had some interesting observations and insight into the 2007 hay market and what to expect in the coming months. One thing that jumped out is the possibility that the 2007 alfalfa acreage, which is forecast below 1 million acres for the first time since 1997, may remain static. Given the strong market and record high prices, it’s logical to assume that there will be a significant surge in acreage for 2008.

On the other hand, however, there’s the recurring roadblock that always comes to the forefront — water. In an article Hoyt that “an alfalfa hay market like we’ve had in 2007 would have automatically resulted in 10 percent to 15 percent more acres in California the following year.”

One factor that’s present now as opposed to prior years is more attractive crop options. Leading the list, of course, is wheat which is also experiencing record high prices. It’s a development that will likely cut into acreage of alfalfa and other forages, as well as other crops such as cotton and tomatoes.

Even if alfalfa acreage would take the 10 percent to 15 percent jump that normally follows a sizzling hay market, it won’t be enough to satisfy demand. In July, alfalfa hay shipped into California was 52 percent above last year. Record tonnage continued in August when imported alfalfa hay hit 101,269 tons, a 95 percent increase vs. 2006. Even states like Montana, Wyoming and Colorado jumped on the bandwagon and shipped alfalfa into California.

Tight hay supplies were also evident in the different types of forages and by-products fed to dry cows. They ran the gamut from corn stalks to rice straw, bean straw, bermudagrass hay, sudangrass, hay and straw, and wheat straw. As Hoyt put it: “If there was a by-product roughage feed that could be baled it was probably fed.”

A Reminder

If you haven’t already made plans to attend this year’s California Alfalfa and Forage Symposium in Monterey, you can get all the details at the UC Workgroup Web site — CAFA will hold its annual breakfast meeting the second day of the symposium on Dec. 19.

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