Winter kill helping hay supply
Rupert—The first hay crop is in and farmers are finding that the harsh winter of 2017 could actually help the hay market.
Deep snow and low temperatures resulted in record amounts of winterkill across Southern Idaho, the most in decades.
Alfalfa fields that weren’t killed outright were weakened and while it’s too early to get a yield estimates after the first cut, hay was short and weedy and yields are down.
The cold and muddy conditions forced cattle producers, particularly dairies, to feed more hay this winter eating into hay stacks from Boise to Burley.
According to the USDA’s May 1 hay stocks report, Idaho led the nation with the greatest reduction in hay stocks compared to the previous year. Idaho has just 510,000 tons of hay on hand this spring, down 46 percent compared to a year ago. Nationally, hay stocks are down just 3 percent.
Other states that posted large declines include North Dakota (down 360,000 tons), South Dakota (down 350,000 tons) and Colorado (down 300,000 tons).
Oregon is up 50,000 tons to 1.5 million tons while Washington is down 70,000 tons to 330,000 tons. California and Nevada are essentially flat: California was down 10,000 tons to 330,000 tons while Nevada was up 5,000 tons to 220,000 tons.
The combination of potentially lower yields and less hay in stacks should bring better marketing opportunities for hay producers through the summer.
Glenn Shewmaker, University of Idaho Extension forage specialist says that growers need to stay on top of markets.“Growers need to recognize it should be turning, at some point, to more of a seller’s market than a buyer’s market,”
Growers who took one extra cutting of hay last fall are paying for it now. Frequent cuts, five or six per season, can force alfalfa plants to enter winter with low carbohydrate reserves. Snow drifts and fence lines where snow accumulates ice layers form, and the plants didn’t have enough plant anti-freeze to survive the harsh,stormy winter.
Still USDA forecasters estimated Idaho hay acres will be up 2 percent in 2017. That survey was completed in early March, before the extent of the winter damage to stands was known. Many expect to see hay acres fall when the June Acreage Report is released, but no one has an estimate yet for how many acres may have been lost.