The global alfalfa hay market growing at a CAGR of 6.7% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
A perennial flowering plant is known as alfalfa or lucerne. Around the world, many nations cultivate it as a significant forage crop. As green manure and cover crop, it is also used for grazing, hay, and silage production. Alfalfa hay is an abundant source of energy, protein, fiber, calcium, vitamins, and minerals produced by harvesting the crop with a swather and sun-drying it in strips. The dried strips are compressed mechanically into bales and then transformed into cubes and pellets. Alfalfa hay has a higher nutrient content than grass hay and is more palatable. It is also used in the production of nutritional supplements to enhance the growth and immunity of animals. The rising awareness of animal nutrition among the general population is one of the primary factors driving market expansion. In addition, the shift in consumer preference towards premium-quality dairy and meat products is driving market expansion.
A significant factor driving the expansion of the global alfalfa hay market is livestock. Until 2030, the annual meat and milk production growth in developing nations is predicted to be 2.4% and 2.5%, respectively. As a result, it is anticipated that developing countries will produce 66% more meat and 55% more milk globally. In addition, the livestock industry has been under tremendous pressure to meet the rising demand for high-quality animal protein. There is a significant rise in the demand for alfalfa hay in China because of altered dairy industry production methods. The primary cause is the rise in the number of cows raised by contemporary dairy farmers who favor using imported hay and commercial feeds. To meet the high demand for alfalfa, the Chinese government is also concentrating on increasing the domestic production of the crop. In China, the dairy industry is increasing the demand for alfalfa hay. Due to its high crude protein content, alfalfa hay is used in animal feed, especially for poultry feed. Over the forecast period, the global alfalfa hay market may continue to be driven by dependence on alfalfa hay for animal feed.
The cost of alfalfa hay, other livestock feed, the population trends of alfalfa-dependent livestock animals, and the cost of various livestock products significantly impact consumer demand. Dairy cows are the primary consumers of alfalfa among the different animals, followed by cattle, horses, and other livestock. The consumption of meat and other animal products has increased in recent years in many Asian nations due to rising incomes. Numerous research and extension initiatives have attempted to transform conventional backyard farming practices into more intensive and specialized forms of production that will boost output and boost farmers' incomes. Over the forecast period, rising demand from the animal feed industry brought on by forage's high feeding values is anticipated to favorably affect the global alfalfa market's growth.
Alfalfa is grown extensively as forage for cattle worldwide and is typically harvested as hay, though it can also be made into silage, grazed, or fed as green chop. It is the hay crop with the highest feeding value. Grazing can lower feed costs, but the cattle receive feed that is of inferior quality. As a result, there has been tremendous growth in the production of alfalfa hay in recent years and will continue to do so. Animal owners are producing alfalfa for hay because it has highly nutritious and because they are more focused on high-quality products to get more returns.
Overgrazing is one of the factors contributing to a reduction in grazing land. To avoid overgrazing, forage supplements are matched to the herd's needs in North America. This indicates that a buffer is required in the system to account for forages with the quickest growth rate. Due to the shrinking grazing area, intensive livestock farming is now practiced with good management techniques to ensure productivity. The addition of grass, such as alfalfa hay, to the diets of cattle, goats, and sheep has been crucial to the success of these practices. Decreased grazing areas due to inadequate productivity from grazing on the land and excessive grazing have led to increased alfalfa hay production over the past few years. They are expected to continue throughout the forecast period.
Cattle, horses, dairy cows, goats, and sheep all benefit from eating alfalfa hay as feed. Some of the top nations producing alfalfa hay are Canada, Spain, the U.S., Italy, and France. The market for alfalfa hay is expected to be dominated by the bale segment out of the three types. Some of the top businesses in these nations are actively involved in every aspect of the supply chain, including sourcing, logistics applications, shipping, distribution, and marketing, while also stressing how important alfalfa quality is. Due to its high protein and highly digestible fiber content, it is primarily fed to high-yielding dairy cows. However, it is also used to feed beef cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. It is a significant source of fiber and protein for meat rabbits. The market for alfalfa hay is anticipated to grow due to the enormous demand for dairy and meat products, particularly in developing and the Middle Eastern nations. Therefore, there is a huge demand for forage crops, particularly alfalfa. The market is expected to grow in the forecast period due to the increased demand for dairy and animal products and the limited availability of land for grazing.
The global alfalfa hay market is segmented by type and application.
Based on type, the global alfalfa hay market is bifurcated into bales, pellets, and cubes.
The pellets segment is the highest contributor to the market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.3% during the forecast period. Alfalfa pellets' quicker growth is highly noted because it is practical for small-scale operations. Pelletized alfalfa is a natural, extremely nutrient-rich feed. They provide high-digestible fiber, "slow-releasing" energy in the form of high-quality protein, and various organic vitamins and minerals. As a result, it is widely fed to cattle, poultry, and pigs, the alfalfa hay that has been ground up and is high in vitamins and minerals. It is used in fertilizers and biofuel in addition to animal feed. The demand for alfalfa hay pellets has increased due to stricter policies by countries in the European Union to reduce the use of carbon content and the increased demand for biofuel to minimize environmental pollution. The high nutritional value of alfalfa pellets, which leads to improved benefits for livestock, is expected to drive further growth in the market during the forecast period.
Alfalfa cubes are small fragments of regular hay that have been compressed. Most of the time, horses are fed this kind of alfalfa. After soaking in water for 30 minutes, it is advised to provide softened forms. As they are convenient to handle and store and offer zero waste, alfalfa cubes are primarily used for animal feed. The cubes are also simpler to handle than the 1,400-pound round alfalfa bales typically used. Other benefits include the ability to ensure adequate nutrition and well-measured feed intake.
Based on application, the global alfalfa hay market is bifurcated into meat/dairy animal feed, poultry feed, and horse feed.
The meat/dairy animal feed segment is the highest contributor to the market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.8% during the forecast period. Nearly 80% of alfalfa hay is used as animal feed for cattle or the meat/dairy industry, known to be the largest plant consumer worldwide. Alfalfa hay is the best for feeding dairy animals due to the rising demand for high-quality, low-fiber, high vitamins and minerals and protein content. The beef and small ruminant markets are the following largest sources of buyers after the dairy markets. Cattle farmers are making hay for their cows or feedlots due to the rising cost of alfalfa. This trend can be attributed to farmers' increased awareness of the potential of forage to increase their income by providing an additional income source and alfalfa cultivation. As a result, it is anticipated that the use of alfalfa hay in the meat/dairy animal feed segment will increase due to the expansion of livestock farming to meet the rising demand for milk and meat during the forecast period.
Alfalfa for feeding, straw for bedding, and animal welfare are all components of poultry feed. Due to their ease of consumption and ability to divert birds, alfalfa pellets are primarily used in poultry feed, encouraging scratching. The demand for poultry meat has increased due to consumers' shifting lifestyles. The increased demand for alfalfa hay in poultry feed is to blame for this. The alfalfa's protein, mineral, and vitamin content enhances the quality of meat and eggs. Vitamin E from alfalfa feed gives egg yolks and poultry meat their characteristic yellow and pink hues. Farmers have been drawn to alfalfa hay because of its nutritional value, which has increased consumer demand. As a result, the market for alfalfa hay used in poultry feed is anticipated to expand in line with the rising demand for poultry meat and eggs over the forecast period.
The global alfalfa hay market is segmented by regions: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, South America, and the Middle East and Africa.
North America is the most significant revenue contributor and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.6% during the forecast period. The top export destinations from the United States are China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. China is expected to continue as a significant market for U.S. alfalfa hay exports, receiving nearly half of all shipments. Saudi Arabia saw a decline in alfalfa production domestically. The nation primarily depends on imports to meet its alfalfa needs, and it is also anticipated to continue to be one of the primary consumers of U.S. alfalfa hay. There are also large numbers of other livestock that consume alfalfa, such as beef cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. This connection to dairy production and other businesses has led to alfalfa and other forage crops playing a significant role in the nation. The alfalfa crop is in high demand because it is used both domestically and internationally. During the forecast period, this demand is expected to increase.
Europe is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.3% during the forecast period. The second-largest producer of alfalfa seeds in Europe, France is a significant alfalfa-growing region worldwide. The alfalfa seed aids the country's ability to produce more alfalfa hay. Alfalfa is one of the main crops grown in France, and it is exported to several nations. In France, more than half of the proteins needed by livestock farmers are produced, with alfalfa playing a significant role in the overall production. Alfalfa was a crucial crop to make forage for French farmers and those further afield who were also affected by dry or drought conditions due to changing climates and a protracted drought period. Dairy farmers have a high demand for alfalfa due to the crop's high nutrient content. Alfalfa is also in greater demand to feed horses, though. Due to favorable climatic conditions and a high domestic and export market, France is expected to expand during the forecast period.
In Asia-Pacific, the top hay suppliers to China are the U.S., Spain, Canada, Argentina, Sudan, and Bulgaria. Alfalfa hay is only available in bale form in the U.S., Argentina, and Sudan. In contrast, Spain, Bulgaria, and Canada export it in all three forms—bale, pellet, and cube. In 2017, China accounted for more than 50% of U.S. alfalfa hay exports, and during the first four months of that year, its imports from the U.S. increased by 19%. Due to trade disputes, the country no longer imports much alfalfa hay from the United States. The primary factors boosting the nation's imports are the changing production methods in the dairy industry and the rising demand for imported alfalfa hay from large and contemporary dairy farms to raise dairy cows. The government is concentrating on encouraging domestic production to reduce its reliance on imports. Thus, it is anticipated that the factors above will fuel the alfalfa hay market during the forecast period.
South America’s main elements thriving in the production of alfalfa hay across the nation are elevated environmental conditions, increased foreign demand for alfalfa hay, and increased international milk prices. Additionally, buyers prioritize higher prices based on weight rather than quality, leading to subpar hay production practices like inadequate cutting equipment and improper bale storage. As a result, farmers worldwide are becoming aware of the high-quality alfalfa produced in Argentina, which is expected to fuel the growth of the alfalfa market over the forecast period.
In the Middle East and Africa, the rising demand for high-quality hay for livestock and dairy products, the number of cattle, the cost of alfalfa hay, and price trends in alternative feed and forage are the main factors affecting the alfalfa market. The Saudi Arabian alfalfa market is largely expanding due to the livestock industry's growth. Between 2014 and 2016, Saudi Arabia saw a 4% increase in cattle meat production and an 8% increase in the production of whole, fresh cow milk. Despite fierce competition for alfalfa supplies from the U.S. and Spain, Saudi Arabia's plant imports are likely to keep growing because the Saudi Arabian government provides import subsidies and additional support to meet domestic alfalfa consumption needs. The Saudi government has promoted expanding current businesses and investing in animal feed companies. Production in the nation is expected to remain zero over the forecast period, but Saudi Arabian companies are likely to expand to other countries.
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