It is no secret that the winter was rough. As farmers throughout the country experienced record-cold temperatures, blizzards that seemed to last weeks rather than days, and unrelenting wind, many fed more hay than they usually do. It’s reflected in hay stocks, analysts say.
“Quality hay is in short supply as many auctions have little to no top quality hay available,” says Richard Halopka, Senior Outreach Specialist, Clark County Extension and member of the University of Wisconsin Forage Team.
USDA’s Dec. 1 hay stocks report showed a 6% reduction in U.S. hay supplies since the previous report. According to Seth Hoyt of the Hoyt report, May’s hay stocks numbers will likely be lower than that.
“In the western states, inventories are down,” he says. “In some areas more than others, but old crop supplies are not going to be much of an issue as far as pressuring new crop alfalfa hay prices.
While some years old crop hay supplies can hurt the new crop alfalfa hay market, he doesn’t expect that to happen this year because of strong export demand and improving milk prices.
“Dairy producers have been pretty quiet buying hay the past year because of their financial situation. Many California dairies don’t have much inventory of hay,” he explains. “Now there's more positive outlook on milk price, so that will probably get some dairy producers in the market to buy new crop alfalfa hay, instead of just buying hand to mouth, for short-term needs.”
Exporters continue to be tough hay buying competition for dairy producers in the West, Hoyt says.
“For example, exporters have contracted roughly 130,000 tons of new crop alfalfa hay in the last two months in Idaho,“ he adds.
Should you buy? All indications are that hay prices are not likely to move lower because demand, driven by exports and improved milk prices, are likely to keep hay prices from falling.
USDA will release May 1 Hay Stock numbers in their May 10 crop production report.