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California Alfalfa & Forage Association

CAFA is fortunate to have the services of Seth Hoyt of the Agricultural Statistics Service in Sacramento, who donates his time to update the association's members on market forecasts. His articles written for CAFA News keep members updated on planting intentions, acreage estimates and other relevant information that impacts hay markets in California and other western states.

He also includes information on the California dairy industry, which buys approximately 80 percent of all alfalfa grown in the state, and provides insight into other types of hay. The bulk of Hoyt's 35 years in the agricultural industry has been associated with commodity markets, but most of his current work involves being an agricultural statistician. He says he has a “passion for agricultural market analysis” and it's reflected in the three to four articles he writes for CAFA News each year. Based on feedback from CAFA members, the articles are highly regarded and growers look forward to receiving the information.

The article he wrote for the March CAFA News provided an in-depth look at the 2005 hay market as it was starting to shift into high gear. Hoyt's article for the December newsletter painted a positive picture and last month's article in CAFA News carried the same theme.

Hay stocks on Dec, 1 of 2004 were down 17 percent from the same period in 2003. Dec. 1 hay stocks were also down in three major states that truck alfalfa into California. Nevada hay stocks were down by 14 percent, Utah by 7 percent and Arizona 11 percent.

Hay shipped to California in January reflected the limited amount of unsold hay. Alfalfa hay shipped into the state the first month of the year set a new record of 76,544 tons. That's a 44 percent increase over January of 2004 and 11 percent higher than the previous record set in 2002.

Earlier this year a CAFA grower member in Bakersfield told us the buzz in Kern County indicated that growers would shift acreage from cotton to alfalfa. He wondered if there'd be a similar trend in other areas that would push acreage much higher in 2005.

According to Hoyt, that doesn't appear to be the case. His seed industry contacts indicate that alfalfa acreage will probably be the same or slightly higher than 2004. He noted that some growers who wanted to plant last fall were stymied by wet weather. Even if fall and/or spring plantings are higher than normal, some of the new acreage will be offset. In February, the Imperial and Palo Verde valleys had a combined reduction of 14,000 acres of alfalfa compared to February 2004.

In his article for CAFA News, Hoyt cautioned Californians who buy hay from Nevada and Utah to keep an eye on Idaho. Irrigation water supplies there could be tight again due to below normal snow pack. Idaho's dairy industry has experienced strong growth the past 10 years and if hay supplies are tight dairymen will be forced to tap surrounding states to fill the void.

Overall, 2005 is shaping up to be a strong market year for high-test hay, which is often the case. The outlook for Fair to Good quality alfalfa appears to be positive for the first half of 2005, while dry cow hay may run into competition from by-product feeds in mid-season.

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