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 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication October 31, 2006 |  
Know Your Horse-Hay Clients
State Reports California Nebraska Oregon Washington
Events Western Alfalfa and Forage Conference Is Dec. 11-13 Calendar
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This Week's USDA Hay Prices by State

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Know Your Horse-Hay Clients
(Part 1 of two-part series)
Getting to know who your customer is and what he or she wants is crucial to success when selling hay to the equine market, says Randy Samko, vice president of Seminole Feeds, Ocala, FL. His company buys several semi loads of baled hay per week from throughout the U.S. for sale to horse owners in the Southeast. Seminole Feeds also makes 41 horse feeds and sells them through three company stores in Marion County, FL, and through 150 independent feed dealers in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. This means the company is responsible for helping 20,000 customers feed 50,000 horses every day, says Samko.

Acknowledging the challenges that sometimes come with catering to the equine market, Samko, a horse owner himself, told attendees at last week's Western Hay Business Conference & Expo that even with its quirks, the horse industry can provide a good business opportunity for hay growers. He points out National Research Council data that a 1,000-lb horse eats around 20 lbs of hay and grain per day, and someone has to provide that hay. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the customer when targeting the horse hay market. "Who are you going to be working with? Who is your customer," he asks. "If you are trying to sell to the horse industry, the horse owner is the one you need to focus on, regardless of whether you are a hay producer, broker or retailer." Samko noted some interesting facts about the horse industry:
  • An American Horse Council survey done several years ago estimated there were 9.2 million horses in the U.S., with the number climbing closer to 10 million every day.
  • There are close to 2 million horse owners in the U.S.
  • 35% of U.S. horse owners earn less than $50,000 per year.
  • 28% earn more than $100,000 per year.
  • 70% live in towns with less than 50,000 people.
  • The top three horse-owning states are Texas, California and Florida.
  • The Southeast is experiencing an estimated 12-18% growth in the equine industry each year. Samko says this growth represents a growing demand for quality hay from the North and West.
Samko says the U.S. horse industry is a discretionary income industry. "Horse owners spend their discretionary income on their horses instead of Harleys or fishing boats," he states. "Their horses often fall into the pet or companion animal category and they spend money on them accordingly." He separates horse owners into four basic ownership groups, noting that each group also has various sub-categories.
  1. Professional owners and trainers. These are people who make their livelihood with horses at racetracks, training facilities, ranches and breeding farms. Professional owners and trainers rely heavily on quality feed products.
  2. Competitive riders. These horse owners compete in various horse-related sports on a serious level, but are not professionals They are interested in the performance of their feed products and price of the product is a strong factor in their feed choices.
  3. Recreational riders and owners. They own horses and enjoy being part of the horse industry. The group may include trail riders and people who take their horses to a state park for the weekend. When buying feedstuffs for their horses, recreational riders are interested in the performance, price and availability of the product.
  4. Caretakers. This type of horse owner has a horse and may view it as a "pasture pet." He or she may not even ride the horse. Caretakers have no brand loyalty when choosing feed products, but are mainly focusing on price and convenience.
Next week: Part 2 will address specific qualities horse hay customers are seeking, as well as Samko's suggestions for success when targeting hay sales to the equine market.

Learn more about Seminole Feeds at Contact Samko at 800-683-1881.

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State Reports
Overall, it was a pretty good year for making hay in northern California, according to Steve Orloff, Siskiyou County extension director, Yreka. "We started with very wet weather last December, and then the moisture turned off and it got warm," he reports. "There was some rain damage on the first cutting in our area." Prices have been down $10-15/ton from last year's prices, although the last few weeks have brought some price improvement, Orloff says. USDA reports most producers in northern California have finished the last cutting for the season, with a few expected to finish up this week. Area hay buyers are looking hard out of state for supplies to be used the rest of the year.

Orloff was a featured speaker at last week's Western Hay Business Conference & Expo in Spokane, WA. He presented strategies to get the most hay from limited irrigation water. Contact him at 530-842-2711. Learn more about the California hay marketing situation at the USDA Market News Web site at

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Demand for dairy hay has been strong, especially from buyers in Oklahoma and Texas, and it's hard to find, reports Darren Springer, Absolute Contracting, Bennington, NE. According to USDA, precipitation and humidity levels the past few weeks have wreaked havoc for growers trying to put up fourth and fifth cuttings in parts of Nebraska.

USDA reports that large square bales of supreme alfalfa hay with relative feed value (RFV) greater than 185 were selling for $140/ton in northeastern Nebraska last week. Large square bales of premium-quality alfalfa (RFV 170-185) sold for $130-140/ton, good quality (RFV 150-170) brought $115-120/ton and fair quality (RFV 130-150) went for $90/ton. In round bales, good-quality alfalfa sold for $75-90/ton; fair quality, for $60-80/ton. Alfalfa ground and delivered to feedlots brought $105/ton. Good grass hay sold for $100/ton in small square bales; $80-85/ton in large round bales. Dehydrated alfalfa pellets at 17% protein sold for $160/ton, and big square bales of straw brought $45-50/ton.

In Nebraska's Platte Valley, USDA says small square bales of supreme alfalfa hay sold for $160/ton last week. In large square bales, premium hay sold for $125-135/ton; fair to good hay, for $90-110/ton. Good large round bales sold for $85-90/ton; fair round bales, for $80/ton. Good round bales of grass hay sold for $60-80/ton. Large square bales of oat hay brought $80/ton, and round bales of straw sold for $60/ton. Alfalfa ground and delivered to feedlots brought $125-130/ton; 17%-protein dehydrated alfalfa pellets, $160/ton.

Springer is a hay broker who sells alfalfa and alfalfa-grass mixes to the dairy, horse and beef cattle markets. He also operates a trucking business. He attended the Western Hay Business Conference & Expo in Spokane, WA, last week. Contact him at 402-238-2009 (office) or 402-321-2659 (cell).

Learn more about Nebraska prices from USDA at

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This year's first and second cuttings were hammered with rain, but the third cutting went up well in south-central Oregon, says Scott Duffner, Silver Lake. He's the farm manager for Dinsdale Farms, an integrated farming operation that includes a cow-calf enterprise, around 5,000 acres of irrigated alfalfa and 1,000 acres of seed oat production. About 400 of the alfalfa acres are certified organic. "We produce around 5 tons/acre of certified organic alfalfa per year for organic dairies," he explains. Dinsdale Farms is planning to expand the certified organic acres because there seems to be a shortage of organic hay. That hay typically sells at a $30/ton premium over conventional hay. "I'm getting a lot of calls for organic hay," Duffner reports. "Conventional hay is available in the area, but it's moving quicker than it normally does, so we may have a shortage of conventional hay this winter, too." Dinsdale Farms sells conventional hay to dairies in western Oregon and into California and southwestern Washington.

Duffner spoke as part of the Innovative Hay Producer Panel at the Western Hay Business Conference & Expo. Contact him at 541-576-2440.

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Prices are good, but tonnage is down in parts of Washington as a result of high temperatures this summer, according to Jim Sircin and Larry Duffner, alfalfa growers near Ephrata. "Prices are good, but there may not be enough hay available," says Sircin. "If we get a lot of snow, we will be short on hay." He says the first and third cuttings were bad because of rain. June was particularly wet. "I know of very few producers who got hay up during June," Sircin says. "I'll bet 95% of the hay got wet."

Long periods of hot weather at other times during the summer made it difficult to keep up with water, Duffner adds. "Grass hay is basically non-existent in the area," he notes.

Duffner and Sircin attended the Western Hay Business Conference & Expo. Duffner sells hay to horse producers and feed stores, while Sircin targets the horse and dairy hay markets. Contact Sircin at 509-787-4186; Duffner, at 509-787-0665.

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Western Alfalfa and Forage Conference Is Dec. 11-13
The Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference is scheduled for Dec. 11-13 in Reno, NV. Forty-one speakers will cover topics that include economics, equipment, stand establishment, pest management, irrigation, alternative forages, forage quality and risk management. More than 500 hay growers, support industry people, educators, professional crop advisors and exhibitors are expected to attend.

The registration deadline is Nov. 20. The conference will be held at John Ascuagua's Nugget in Sparks. Make hotel reservations directly by calling 800-648-1177. Mention the alfalfa conference when reserving hotel rooms.

A preconference tour is scheduled for Dec. 11, with the conference and exhibits running Dec. 12-13. A complete program is available online at Contact Dan Putnam, alfalfa/forage extension agronomist, University California, Davis, at 530-752-8982 for more information.

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**Nov. 14-15 -- 2006 BEEF Magazine's Quality Summit, Clarion Hotel, Oklahoma City. Learn more and sign up at

**Nov. 21 -- Kentucky Grazing Conference, Fayette County Extension Office, Lexington. Learn more at

**Dec. 11-13 -- Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference, Reno, NV. Contact Dan Putnam at 530-752-8982 or, or Glenn Shewmaker at 208-736-3608 or

**Jan. 17-18 -- 2007 Washington State Hay Growers Association Annual Conference & Trade Show, Three Rivers Convention Center, Kennewick. Contact the Washington State Hay Growers Association at 509-585-5460.

**Jan. 18-19 -- Southwest Hay Conference, Ruidoso Convention Center, Ruidoso, NM. Learn more at the New Mexico Hay Association Web site at Contact Doug Whitney at or call Gina Sterrett at 505-626-5677.

**Jan. 24-25 -- Heart Of America Grazing Conference, Holiday Inn, Mount Vernon, IL. Contact Justin Sexten, University of Illinois Extension Specialist, at 618-242-9310, or via email at

**Feb. 6-7 -- The Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association's Mid-America Alfalfa Expo, Buffalo County Fairgrounds, Kearney, NE. Visit or call Barb Kinnan at 800-743-1649.

**Feb. 7-8 -- Utah Hay & Forage Symposium, Holiday Inn Resort, St. George, UT. Contact Thomas Griggs, 435-797-2259 or via email at

**Feb. 9 -- Ohio Forage & Grassland Council Annual Conference, Reynoldsburg. Contact Mark Sulc at 614-292-9084.

**Feb. 22 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Cave City Convention Center. Learn more at

**Feb. 28-March 2 -- National Grassfed Beef Conference, Grantville, PA. Contact John Comerford at 814-863-3661 or, or Dave Hartman at 570-784-6660, ext. 12, or

**March 13-14 -- 2007 Midwest Hay Business Conference & Expo, KCI Expo Center, Kansas City, MO. Learn more at

**March 21-22 -- 2007 Central Plains Dairy Expo, Sheraton Inn, Sioux Falls, SD. Learn more at or call Kathy Tonneson at 218-236-8420.

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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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