Regional hay issues due to western drought

COW/CALF CORNER by Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

Recent USDA reports provide a picture of the hay situation across the U.S.  December 1 hay stocks were down a scant 0.6 percent year over year for the entire U.S.  Table 1 shows the top ten states for hay stocks as well as 2020 all hay, alfalfa hay and other production.  Among the top ten states for hay stocks, Texas was up 14.3 percent year over year along with Kentucky, up 27.5 percent and Tennessee up 1.0 percent compared to the previous year.  Nebraska had an equal level of hay stocks on December 1.  The other six states had year over year reductions in end-of-year hay stocks led by Missouri, down 13.0 percent; North Dakota, down 11.9 percent; South Dakota, down 7.2; Montana, down 5.9 percent; Kansas, down 5.7 percent and Oklahoma, down 2.4 percent. 

Total 2020 hay production was down 1.6 percent nationwide with alfalfa hay production down 3.3 percent year over year and other hay production down just 0.3 percent compared to 2019.  All hay production in Kentucky was up 22.7 percent year over year, led by a 24.2 percent increase in other hay production. Texas had a 4.9 percent year over year increase in both all hay and other hay production.  Nebraska had a 4.7 percent increase in all hay year over year, the result of a 9.5 percent decrease in alfalfa production and a 25.3 percent increase in other hay production. 

Table 1.  U.S. and Top Ten States Hay Stocks and Production, 2020

 Dec 1 StocksAll Hay ProductionAlfalfa Hay ProductionOther Hay Production
 State1,000 TonsState1,000 TonsState1,000 TonsState1,000 Tons
Top 10 46755 60249 31008 43148
U.S.202084020 126812 53076 73745
 201984488 128864 54875 73989
5 yr. avg.14-1889272 132063 57494 74568

Drought persisted across much of the west in 2020 and has extended into much of the Great Plains at the current time.  Several states reveal the impact of the drought on hay production and supplies and the challenges for cattle producers in those regions.  Colorado had December 1 hay stocks down 15.0 percent year over year, with 2020 alfalfa hay production down 11.9 percent and other hay production down 32.1 percent.  New Mexico had December 1 hay stocks down 36.4 percent year over year and the lowest end-of year-hay stocks in the state in data back to 1973.  New Mexico alfalfa hay production was down 12.1 percent year over year and other hay production was down 21.8 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.  While overall U.S. hay supplies appear to be adequate, it is clear that some drought regions are experiencing severe challenges to get through the winter.  The 16 western and plains states (not including Texas) had December 1 hay stocks down 5.8 percent year over year.  Texas has some drought regions but overall hay stocks in the state are up. 

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