Agricultural Prices showed an uptick in hay prices for the last month (April) of the 2013/2014 marketing year. California and the Southwest continue to show drought like conditions, and reports out of the northern plains and upper Midwest, indicate winterkill in alfalfa and a delayed first cutting. All these reports point to higher domestic prices early in 2014/2015, but that could be temporary for two reasons:
First, the first report of pasture and range conditions were released this week in the Crop Progress report, USDA-NASS. It provides a barometer for forage available for grazing cattle and in turn implies supplemental feeding levels of hay. The U.S. overall pasture and range condition is substantially better than last year. The weekly report indicated less than 25% of pastures are in very poor or poor conditions, as opposed to over 35% in 2013. The largest improvement is in the Great Plains region, just over 20% in poor and very poor condition compared to nearly 60% a year ago. All other regions have better conditions except the Northeast and the Southeast.
Second, the demand for hay by export users has grown in recent years and is a concern particularly for western producers. However, trade data released May 6th, by USDA-FAS indicates first quarter exports of alfalfa and other hay are down from a year earlier. Other hay exports are down 14% from last year. China remains an aggressive buyer, nearly doubling its buying of other hay by quantity, however, Japan, Taiwan and UAE have decreased purchases by more than 20% each. Alfalfa exports decreased compared to a year ago, down 12%. China is up 23% and Taiwan is up 8%. UAE first quarter figures indicate exports are down over 40%.
In summary, supplies will remain tight until first cutting is underway for most of the country. Nationally, May 1 hay stocks figures showed a 35% increase from last year, but still 12% down from the last decade average. Better pasture and range and less competition from export markets will keep hay costs more manageable on a national basis, but there will likely be little relief to drought stricken areas.
Source: May 9 issue of the “Livestock Monitor,” a weekly newsletter from the Livestock Marketing Information Center.