Drought, winter storms, wildfires drive hay prices higher as supplies dwindle
Winter storms that continued into the spring months have exacerbated dwindling supplies of hay. Cow/calf and feedlot managers are in short supply, following the drought-stricken 2017 season. In some areas, the extra month of winter has pasture turn-out on hold, and along with the dwindling supplies of hay, the prices have skyrocketed.
According to reports, most hay products are selling $75 to $90 per ton higher than last year. The rise in hay prices, along with drought conditions and spring fires in some states, is feeding the sale barns, with producers selling off cattle, unable to break-even.
Another factor in hay prices is an increase in hay exports. More producers are growing crops primarily for export, as good quality hay is in demand in China, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. The U.S. exported $356 million worth of hay last year, with 44 percent going to China. And if the tariff war doesn’t hit the hay, exports to China are expected to grow according to reports.
Like most states, Colorado hay is becoming difficult to find if it’s not precontracted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Producers are hanging on to their inventories, as the U.S. Drought Monitor Summary for April 24, has 42.49 percent of the state falling in a D0-D4 Drought Category compared to 21.67 percent a year ago.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service National Water and Climate Center’s Colorado SNOTEL Snow/Precipitation Update Report for April 26, had the Gunnison River Basin Snow Water Equivalent at 53 percent, the Upper Colorado River basin at 86 percent, the South Platte River Basin at 89 percent, the Laramie and North Platte River Basins at 100 percent, the Yampa and White River Basins at 86 percent, the Arkansas River Basin at 62 percent, the Upper Rio Grande Basin at 23 percent and the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins at 25 percent as a percent of the median of all SNOTEL sites in each basin compared to previous years.
USDA reported small squares averaging $7.75 per bale, or $280 per ton in southeast Colorado and $275–$300 per ton in the mountain and northeast areas. NEBRASKA
In Nebraska, compared to the previous week, hay was selling $10 higher, with limited inventory. According to USDA reports, many producers are quickly filling orders and are waiting for trucks to ship product. Quite a few producers are starting to plant new seedings of alfalfa with some waiting until the middle of May in case there is a late freeze.
In eastern/central Nebraska, good large square bales of alfalfa were selling for $145-$150 per ton, and grass rounds were selling for $85-$95. The Platte Valley area saw sales of alfalfa round bales at $100 per ton and ground and delivered alfalfa as high as $140 per ton. In western Nebraska, supreme alfalfa squares were selling for $185 per ton.
In Kansas, prices were also running about $10 higher. Dry, windy weather has producers hoping for rain to ease drought conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the abnormally dry (D0) category increased to 98 percent, moderate drought (D1) stayed steady at 83 percent, severe drought (D2) stayed steady at 60 percent, extreme drought (D3) stayed near 27 percent and exceptional drought (D4) stayed near 7 percent.
New crop alfalfa is very slow to grow as cold temperatures prevail. Many producers think that first cutting of new crop alfalfa will be delayed 30-45 days due to the cool, dry weather. New crop pricing is also slow to come as producers are waiting to see what the weather brings. Farmers are making plans to add a number of new alfalfa stands this spring and fall, according to USDA.
Wyoming saw prices steady, with high demand. Producers are hanging on to their inventory, since grasses are slow to start growing in the state. Supreme alfalfa large square bales were selling for $200 per ton.
According to the University of Wyoming Extension report, Grade 1 large round hay bales are selling at $123 per ton this year, compared to being pegged at $80 per ton a year ago. Grade 2 and Grade 3 large round hay bales are selling at $108 and $109 per ton this year, compared to being sold at $62 and $46 per ton last year. Grade 2 and Grade 3 large round hay bales have gone up by 74 percent and 135 percent in price year-on-year.
While prices are expected to taper off, with summer in the radar, producers are advised to start stockpiling.
“Cool season grass production has been delayed in many parts of the country resulting in a longer hay feeding period which is sure to weigh on the May 1 hay stocks number just like the drought and wildfires will do. The best advice for this year’s hay season is to fill up the hay barns as early as possible because hay may be in short supply this coming fall and winter,” writes Andrew P. Griffith, University Of Tennessee.
If you have hay for sale, and/or need hay visit http://www.hayexchange.com. ❖
— Eatherton is a freelance writer from Beulah, Wyo. When she’s not writing, she’s riding her horse or playing with her grandson. She can be reached at email@example.com.