What does China and Texas wildfires have in common with your boarding stable and your horse? On the surface, it would appear that they have little in common. China imports electronics and Texas is hundreds of miles away. But dig a little deeper you will find out that the alfalfa you or your stable operator throws to your horse morning, noon and night rests heavily upon how China imports its goods to the United States.
If you board your horse you may not know that hay prices have almost tripled since March of 2011. Shocked? You should be. Alfalfa that cost $7.25 a bale last year costs $21.00 a bale this year. And as shocking as that figure is, it isn’t the worst of it. Hay producers haven’t been able to harvest their usual crop of alfalfa this year. Unusual weather patterns have alternatley flooded or scorched first plantings and pushed back harvesting the first cutting. Texas wildfires burned hundred of acres of pastureland, forcing livestock owners to purchase forage. A lot of that alfalfa will come from Colorado,California, Idaho,Montana,Wyoming and Nevada.
As it stands right now it is cheaper to send a ton of alfalfa to China than to truck it to central California.And we do. The reason for that lies in the amount of shipping containers that are here in the U.S. waiting to be shipped back. Alfalfa is the only U.S. Hay product allowed to be shipped to China and last year we shipped 95,000 tons of it to that country. California produces 9% of the Nations alfalfa- 7 million tons annually.
Other countries also import hay from the U.S.for various reasons. The Middle East because of their lack of water resources and Japan because of their lack of space.
All of this adds up to one thing for California hay buyers- higher hay prices and a lack of product.
Dairy farmers in California buy the premium alfalfa to feed their cows.Horse owners will benefit from the dairymen’s refusal to purchase $300 per ton hay, but as it stands the highest price for hay is in the Central valley; $330 per ton, delivered. The upper central valley average price is about $270.00 per ton, and $255.00 per ton in Northern California. You can find a California weekly hay report on Bay Area Equine Network or go to //www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/ml_gr311.txt
What is a horse owner, especially a ‘backyard’ horse owner to do? Whereas the dairy and cattlemen can stretch feed with all kinds of fillers, horses have a much more delicate digestive system. And since the price for even an acre of land is prohibitive for most Californians, there are fewer and fewer pasture alternatives available for our horses.
Find out how to make your feed go further in the second part of this article, ” How to stretch your horse keeping hay bill”