Tight hay supplies expected through summer

Feb 24, 2012
by WLJ

January’s hay stocks report from USDA brought with it a few surprises. At 90.7 million tons, all-hay stocks on U.S. farms as of Dec. 1 were at their lowest levels since 1988 and 11 percent lower than they were a year ago.

This is the lowest Dec. 1 stocks on hand for the U.S. since 1988. Disappearance from May 1, 2011-Dec. 1, 2011, totaled 62.6 million tons, compared with 64.4 million tons for the same period a year ago.

Compared with last year, hay stocks decreased across much of the nation’s midsection. In most cases, these decreases were attributed to an unusually dry year that negatively impacted hay production, as well as pasture and rangeland. Many producers began feeding livestock early to help offset the lack of available feedstuffs.

Stocks on hand were the lowest since 1985 in Oklahoma and Texas, two states that were hit hardest by this year’s prolonged drought. Texas had just 3.8 million tons of hay on hand, down from 9.5 million tons a year earlier. In Oklahoma, stocks totaled 2.8 million tons, down from 4.5 million tons the previous December.

South Dakota and North Dakota represented the only positive in the overall hay stock picture. Both states had significant yearto-year increases.

According to Matt Diersen, ag economist with South Dakota State University Extension, the South Dakota and North Dakota numbers are a little surprising.

Even so, Diersen said the stocks numbers for the two states could be misleading. Diersen speculates that a lot of hay reported as being stored on farms there, particularly in South Dakota, is already spoken for.

Coupling the low stocks with the likely disappearance of hay between now and May 1 when the next hay-stocks numbers are gathered sets up an extremely tight supply situation just ahead of this year’s growing season.

“In the last 10 years or so, it’s been unusual to use less than 80 million tons between Dec. 1 and May 1,” Diersen told reporters at Hayand- Storage.com. “If that holds true this year, we’ll only have 10 million tons to get us from May 1 to June 15 or so, when the new crop starts coming in. That’s just not a lot of hay. Livestock producers are going to have to substitute with other feeds to stretch the hay supply. That’s going to continue putting upward pressure on the price of hay.” — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor