Cattle with hay

Tight hay supplies continue to plague cattle producers.

The Dec. 1 stocks were down nationally for the third consecutive year, with an inventory of 79 million tons, the lowest Dec. 1 number since 2012.

This includes significant reductions in Texas, Wisconsin and Missouri, according to an analysis from the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

Wisconsin and Missouri inventories were down 900,000 tons each.

“This was the smallest December figure for Missouri since 1983, and Wisconsin dipped below 2 million tons, sitting at the lowest value in our data set back to 1973,” the center said in its analysis. “Declines in hay inventories were widespread through the U.S. with declines seen in the Southern Plains, Southwest, California, upper Midwest and Mid-Atlantic States.”

The USDA revised its June forecast in October, showing a substantial gain from the previous year, with 6.8 million acres added to the estimate.

“Historically, estimated hay acres are provided in the June acreage report and are un-revised until the final value,” the LMIC said. “This year hay acres were revised in the October estimate and offered a large gain in acres expected to be harvested.

“The October revision showed another boost of 4.5 million acres, putting the expected harvested acres 11 percent above a year ago.”

The LMIC says it is often difficult to measure harvested hay acres.

“This year’s price profile also left something to puzzle over as hay prices climbed through most of the marketing year,” LMIC said. “Since August, all hay prices have been over $20 per ton higher. The revision of the final hay estimate fits much closer to the yield rumors of poor growing conditions in the Southern Plains, Southwest and California.

“Given tight inventories and high prices, acreage is expected to be higher in the 2019/20 marketing year. Prospective plantings in the last three marketing years has overestimated the final harvested acres count and given the swing between acreage estimates this year, it may be difficult to assess the production picture until well into the marketing year.”

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.