Round Bales of Hay

The latest Crop Production report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service included the May 1 hay stocks for the U.S. and states. Total U.S. hay stocks were 14.9 million tons, down 2.9 percent year over year.

However, May 1 hay stocks in 2018 were also small. The 2019 figure is down 31.4 percent from the five-year 2014-2018 average and 28.8 percent lower than the 10-year average from 2009-2018. The 2019 hay crop year is starting with current hay inventories the smallest since the drought years of 2012-2013. More states had smaller year over year May 1 hay stocks than increases but states with the largest stocks were mostly up including Texas (up 33.6 percent); South Dakota (down 3.2 percent); Montana (up 120 percent); Nebraska (up 52.9 percent) and North Dakota (38.9 percent). These five states accounted for 39.7 percent of total May 1 hay stocks.

Hay production data is reported as all hay; and in two sub-categories: alfalfa and other hay. Total hay production in 2018 was 123.6 million tons, down 3.6 percent year over year and down 9.1 percent over the previous 10-year (2008-2017) period. 2018 alfalfa hay production was down 5.7 percent year over year and was 14.7 percent lower than the previous 10-year average. Other hay production was 2 percent lower year over year and was down 4.4 percent from the 2008-2017 average.

 Table 1. Hay Production Top 10 States (2009-2018 Average)
 RankAll Hay  AlfalfaOther Hay 
 2CaliforniaIdaho Missouri 
 3Missouri South Dakota Kentucky 
 4South Dakota Montana Oklahoma 
 5Nebraska Nebraska Tennessee 
 6Kansas Wisconsin Kansas 


Minnesota Nebraska 
 8Montana North Dakota Virginia 
 9Idaho Iowa Arkansas 
 10North Dakota Colorado Pennsylvania 
 Total %133.7 million tons 44.9% total 55.1% total 
 Top 10%45.8% all hay 59.4% alfalfa hay 55% other hay 

Table 1 shows the top 10 states for all hay, alfalfa hay, and other hay production for the 2009-2018 average. Over this 10-year period, alfalfa hay has averaged 44.9 percent of total hay production and other hay accounting for 55.1 percent. The top 10 all hay production states accounted for 45.8 percent of all hay production. The top 10 alfalfa hay producing states represented 59.4 percent of alfalfa hay production; while the top 10 other hay producing states accounted for 55 percent of other hay production.

With mostly excellent moisture conditions nationwide currently, the prospects to rebuild hay supplies in 2019 around the country are very good. While wet conditions may impact crop planting, good moisture ensures hay and pasture growth; though continued wet conditions could impact hay quality.

I recently traveled through western Oklahoma and confirmed that the wheat looks very good. The latest crop progress report showed U.S. winter wheat condition at 64 percent good and excellent and Oklahoma at 75 percent good and excellent. I noted in my drive that a significant number of wheat acres are being grazed out and substantial acres have been cut for hay. Current low wheat prices and low hay stocks makes utilizing wheat for hay an attractive option for some producers.