Treasure Valley Gets First Hay Crop In
Boise—In lush green fields, swathers are cutting hay all over Southwest Idaho for the first hay crop of 2017.
And for the first time in weeks, the Treasure Valley had almost a week of good weather. For three glorious days temperatures spiked above 75-degrees, on Thursday it hit 84 degrees, perfect haying weather after a cool spring.
Gem County Farmer Danny Walton baled his first crop, but he’ll sell the hay to an uncertain market.
“Hay’s up a few dollars and thats for the good hay. Top quality hay last year we got $140 for 200 test hay and this year we could get $150 but thats not enough for good test hay. Little bales that we sell to the horse market will fetch $150 to $160-a ton. That’s standard for good quality hay but even that’s too low.”
Alfalfa prices fell last year, piggybacked by low milk prices. Most of the Idaho hay was fed to livestock, mostly dairy, so dairymen like everyone else are operating near or below the break-even point. The past couple of years dairy operators reduced the amount of hay in rations because grain prices were so low and that softened hay demand and prices haven’t fully recovered.
Joel Van Lith runs VL Feedlots in Parma he says they fed hay all winter at the feedlot because prices were low and supply plentiful. He noticed last month a change in the market.
“Hay has spiked and I think its because of this crazy winter in the Northwest. For us its down $20-30 a ton. And if you look there’s a lot of last summer hay that you can buy for around $80-85. I think you can buy all the hay you want for a $100-a-ton, but thats feeder hay,” said Van Lith
Hay producers will take the spike in hay this first crop and hope the market improves. It's too early to tell, but a lot of fields in the Magic Valley were lost in the floods and many more were soaked while some producers have moved to other crops.
“The outlook for someone that makes a living off hay is still not that great,” said Walton. “I think we have a ways to go because all the commodities are low. Theres not big change from one commodity to another. So for those who put hay in for a 5 to 6 year crop are probably just going to ride it out. I don’t see much of a change until commodities prices come back up and then it'll be worth planting more.”