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Slow Spring Shaves Hay Yield, Quality Issues

14:45PM Jun 12, 2019
Hay bales 3

Round hay bales( Darrell Smith )

The Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) lowered hay yields across the board this week and edged prices up as this spring continues to have devastating impact on fields and fieldwork. Reports out of the Northern Plains and Midwest with respect to hay are not positive.  New seedings of alfalfa in those states are about half of all new seedings this year, and some of those acres are likely struggling with soils that are wet, cold, or flooded. Winterkill was also potentially an issue in these areas, as this winter was not the kindest either. It is unknown how many of those fields face irrecoverable situations, but for now, we assume that should the fields dry out those acres will still be harvested, but may lose a cutting.

With all the rain and lack of sun, it has been very difficult to get into fields. Fieldwork has the potential to tear up fields as well, further adding to yield drag. First cutting appears to be delayed across the Midwest and Northern Plains.  The quality that is being taken off those fields will also face challenges. Windows for drying have been few and far between.  High quality, dairy-quality hay is most at risk. 

The latest USDA-NASS Agricultural Prices showed hay prices jump nationwide, adding $15 per ton to alfalfa when compared to the previous month and $4 to other hay.  Tight hay stocks hasn’t helped the situation and prices are expected to be high early in the year.  The Northern Plains and Midwest are not major alfalfa producing regions.  Production last year in those states was 36% of total alfafa production, but as the new seedings report indicated there was an incentive to plant more acres. The potential to catch up production later in the year remains an optimistic bias to raising prices too high too fast. The western states haven’t had near the moisture problems that other regions of the country have experienced and good production should help keep alfalfa prices similar to a year ago.  In other hay, the Midwest and Northern Plains are some of the highest producing states.  LMIC moved yields slightly lower on delayed first cutting, but may have to adjust much lower should first cutting be missed entirely.  Hay stocks are presumably tight in other hay as well, and if a cutting is lost, high prices could continue through summer.