An ag economist says the changing poultry sector could be one of the major factors hay production in the U.S. has been declining since the turn of the century.

“In the last 50 years, we’ve seen very rapid growth in the poultry industry, and poultry uses corn and soybean meal, it doesn’t use hay.”

Carl Zulauf with Ohio State University studied the U.S. hay market over the last 100 years. He tells Brownfield while hay production did increase throughout most of the 20th Century, it has been declining since the early 2000s.  “Since 1979, alfalfa acres have been declining by 37 percent in the U.S.  Over the same period of time, acres of other types of hay have increased by 12 percent.”  He says the shift away from alfalfa hay to non-alfalfa hay could be because of a growing horse industry.

Zulauf also believes prices have remained relatively low for hay when compared to corn because of the ethanol industry.  “The ratio of the hay price to the corn price actually trended higher until about the early part of this century and it’s trended lower since.”

He expects the hay market to continue to follow the trend of the last 20 years unless environmental benefits like erosion control can become factored into the pricing structure.