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Expect Tight Hay Supplies, Higher Prices

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Nearly 65% of pasture and range conditions in the Great Plains states require supplemental feeding. That’s after grazing conditions have improved marginally in some areas after late-season rainfall.

The drought is pushing hay prices higher, and alfalfa prices reached $201 per ton with other hay topping $151 per ton, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) July prices data report. NASS reports show hay yields are expected to be smaller, with alfalfa yields down nearly 10% combined with an acreage loss of 100,000 acres. Other hay yields are estimated to be down 2.5% on about 600,000 fewer acres.

The Livestock Marketing Information Project, Denver, says the combination of smaller yields and fewer acres will produce another year of higher U.S. hay prices. Alfalfa yields are taking the largest yield declines in Northern tier states: North Dakota, Montana, Washington all showed significant declines. Production data indicates that production losses in these three states total 3.2 million tons less than last year, a 35% loss, LMIC says.

Other hay yields were more sporadic in their declines. Among northern tier states Idaho, South Dakota, and North Dakota had large declines. These states production data show a loss of 1.6 million tons from a year ago. LMIC says these production estimates are based on the August yield estimates released by USDA NASS and will be revised as more data is gathered in the coming months.

At the beginning of the U.S. marketing year on May 1, hay stocks were down 12%, and usage has continued to be high due to the drought. The outlook for hay prices will continue elevated for the remainder of this year and are very likely to be higher next year. Livestock Marketing Information Center is forecasting a season average price of over $200 per ton this year for alfalfa and just under $200 per ton next year for the national average.

Other hay prices are expected to remain in the high $140s per ton for this year and next.

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