US May 1 hay stocks, reported by the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service in the May Crop Production report, were the largest since 2005 at 25.14 million short tons, greatly reducing the cattle-industry stress about forage availability. Year-over-year, May hay stocks were up 2.5%, nationally.
That was the second year in a row that stocks returned to historically normal levels from 2013 and 2014’s drought depleted supplies, said the Livestock Marketing Information Center.
States that reported increased stock levels were generally the Plains and Western states. Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and Washington’s hay inventories were up more than 10% compared with 2015.
Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, Idaho and California stocks were up less than 10% year over year. Nevada, Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota were down 4% to 7% from a year earlier, and Montana was down 21%.
The Midwest, Southeast and Northeast were split in their inventory changes. Minnesota and Wisconsin stocks were up 7% and 11%, respectively. Iowa and Missouri were down 11% and 4%.
Indiana and Ohio showed significantly lower stocks than 2015, but Georgia and Florida posted double-digit percentage increases from 2015.
Looking ahead to summer and fall, forage conditions appear to be starting the year in good shape. Winter hay usage was fairly normal.
Hay production for the 2016/2017 marketing year was forecast by LMIC to be fairly even to slightly below last year. Combining production with May 1 stocks shows a stable supply for livestock producers across the US.
Currently, given weather conditions and feedstuffs supplies, prices for alfalfa and grass hays were forecast to be 10% to 15% below 2015. If unfavorable weather events come this summer, production and availability could be cut, supporting hay prices.
The LMIC expected hay usage to increase since the US has made dramatic beef cattle inventory increases, but given current weather conditions it may be another year before the supply and demand interactions push hay prices up.
First-quarter hay export volume was up, but value was down. Alfalfa exports rose 35% year over year, but value dropped 10%, both because of lower prices. Average alfalfa exports were calculated at $344 per tonne in 2015 compared with $311 in first-quarter 2016.
First quarter’s other hay export volume was up 2% from a year ago, but value was down 13%. Calculated values averaged $342 a tonne in first quarter of 2015 and $297 in first-quarter 2016.