High prices rationed hay disappearance between December 1 to May 1 to the lowest level since 2013/14 at 64 million tons. However, that still was not enough to prevent a year-over-year drop in the year ending hay inventory. As of May 1, total all hay inventories fell to their lowest level since 2014, and the second lowest on record (records date back to 1960). USDA-NASS reported in the May Crop Production report May 1 Hay stocks to be 14.91 million tons, down 3% from the prior year.
Seventeen states saw declines in hay stocks of more than 25%. Last year, May 1 stocks had widespread declines as well, with 26 states having declines greater than 25%. Several states are experiencing the cumulative effects of two consecutive years of tighter inventories, with a handful reaching the lowest levels in the past decade. Using the 10-year yield average of 2.4 tons per acre, the total U.S. supply this marketing-year (May 2019 – April 2020) is expected to increase 3% to 4%. All hay prices, even with that increase, are still expected to be above a year ago.
The Southern Plains remains a key other hay production area that is increasingly making price waves. Texas and Oklahoma inventories are down more than 50% from two years ago. Surrounding states such as Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri are also in tight inventory situations. Hay stocks are down more than 50% from 2017 in those states as well. Livestock Marketing Information Center is currently forecasting other hay national prices to be 5% higher this marketing year.
High producing alfalfa states are only on slightly better ground. California showed a strong increase this year in inventory but was still nearly 20% below 2017’s. Idaho, the second highest alfalfa producing state in 2017 showed inventories 39% smaller. National alfalfa prices are expected to be similar to last year’s.