Source: Livestock Marketing Information Center and USDA
DENVER – The general story in the national hay complex is one of a continuing trend towards normal (pre 2010 and 2011 drought) production, stock levels, and prices. USDA-NASS conducts two hay stock surveys each year, the most recent was December 1, 2014. Total U.S. stocks for all hay were up 3% compared to 2013. This is the largest for the data series since 2010. Most major cattle producing regions in the U.S. recorded a year-over-year increase in December 1 hay stocks [Kansas though, shows an 18% decrease]. Compared to 2013, the Western region is up 1.4% (even with the California drought), Great Plains up 7.4%, Southern Plains up 28.6%, and the Cornbelt region up 4.2%. The Northeast and Southeast both experienced a decrease in hay stocks compared to year ago numbers by 19.6% and 9.9%, respectively.
Although the U.S. has now seen two consecutive years of increased hay production and stocks, 2014 total all hay production and December 1 stocks were still about 5% and 10% below that of the historical predrought levels, respectively. National beef cattle herd numbers are expected to grow and this will eventually help strengthen forage demand. LMIC expects to see some slight shifting of marginally producing grain and other crop acres back to hay production as national prices for corn stabilize around $3.50-$4.00 per bushel. National average alfalfa prices for 2014 were fairly similar to down slightly compared to 2013. Other hay recorded more of a decrease in national prices, averaging 6% below 2013’s.
As 2015 progresses, barring any severe drought, national hay production and stock levels should continue to move back towards pre-drought levels and LMIC forecasts a continued trend of decreasing alfalfa and other hay prices