State hay stocks high, but so is consumption

The official estimate of hay stocks in California at the end of last year was reportedly higher than some in the hay industry were expecting.

Mild fall weather helped push alfalfa hay production above normal in the fourth quarter. Many alfalfa growers in the central and northern valley put up an extra cutting of alfalfa for the season. According to industry sources, much of the current unsold supply of alfalfa hay is horse or dry cow quality, not high-test hay. Also, the production of other hay (other than alfalfa) in California last year was higher than expected.

Additionally, due to continued economic woes in Japan, only premium or top quality sudan in northern California was in demand from Japanese export buyers.

Unfortunately, the state Extension service notes a sizable amount of less than premium quality was produced. Consequently a large supply of low to middle quality sudan was on hand in the Sacramento Valley. Some of this hay has been selling for dry cow feed.

Even with the estimated hay stocks in December unchanged from the previous year, there is not a glut of hay on the market. A year ago, stocks went from 1.954 million tons to 180,000 tons on May 1, 2001. Consumption for the five months was rather incredible, due mostly to the growth in the dairy cattle business.

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