Source: Livestock Marketing Information Center
U.S. May 1 hay stocks were over 6,000 tons more than expected, coming in only 3.8% below a year ago. Nationwide, hay use this past winter was reduced compared to last year’s by both weather conditions (mild in much of the northern US and improved grazing in the Southern Plains) and record high prices. Many producers chose lower cost options like feeding baled corn stalks. U.S. hay disappearance between the December 1 and May 1 USDA-NASS stocks reports was the lowest since 1980.
Overall, total calculated hay disappearance for the 2010/2011 crop marketing-year was down 9% nationally from the prior year. Disappearance per Roughage Consuming Animal Unit (RCAU) was also quite small by historical standards. Values calculated by the Livestock Marketing Information Center imply all hay disappearance was 1.94 tons per RCAU, the lowest since 1994. Further calculations estimate alfalfa disappearance per RCAU at 0.96 tons, the lowest since the last onset of record high prices. Other hay perhaps took the largest decrease, which decreased 11% from a year ago to 0.986. This was the first disappearance per RCAU to drop below 1.0 in over a decade and the lowest since 1998.
On a per state basis, year-on-year changes in hay stocks tended to be quite large either up or down. As of May 1, only nine states had less than a 10% change compared to a year ago. The magnitude of these changes was mostly in the positive direction, where 7 states had over 50% year-over-year increase and only two states had greater than a 50% decrease in stocks.
Unsurprisingly, Texas and Oklahoma were the two states with over 50% loss in stocks compared to a year ago. Texas stocks dropped 62% compared to a year ago and Oklahoma lost 58%.
With larger than anticipated hay stocks the stage is set for softer hay prices over the course of this marketing year. In the near-term, hay harvesting in many states is ahead of the delayed pace of 2011 due to mild spring weather. There are pockets where hay will remain tight and continued drought concerns will support hay prices until livestock producers are more certain of the future. Areas with higher stocks are mostly states in the West. Nationally, LMIC forecasts are for US all hay production in 2012 to be about 4% above 2011’s. In most markets, hay prices this crop-year are expected to be well below a year ago, but still in the top three record high with the largest percentage declines in alfalfa hay.