2020 Hay Production Outlook

Each year, the USDA’s Crop Production and Crop Production Annual Summary offers a glimpse into the state of the forage industry and a gauge on how the hay market will handle production pressures in 2020.

With all the weather issues in 2019, it would be expected that the amount of hay produced would be dramatically less than in years past, but the USDA data shows something different: On December 1, 2019, the USDA estimated hay stocks at 84.5 million tons, up from 2018 and at nearly the same inventory as December 2017. Though individual states varied in the total hay they produced, the states that had the most hay inventory gains were: Missouri (up 64.3 percent); Utah (up 32.7 percent); Nevada (up 31.7 percent); Arkansas (up 27.4 percent); Kansas (up 23.3 percent); and Montana (up 21.4 percent).

State with the largest inventory reductions were Alabama (down 37.1 percent); Minnesota (down 17.2 percent); Kentucky (down 13 percent); Illinois (down 11.8 percent); Indiana (down 11 percent); and Ohio (down 10.7 percent).

The amount of hay available on December 1, 2019, had dropped nearly 10 million tons since 2016. Hay production peaked in 1999 when 159.6 million tons of hay were produced. Since then, a slow decline has taken place, though yields have been higher per-acre. Smaller amounts of hay are being used throughout winter months and the rise in baleage popularity may be factors that play into this decline.

There are regional differences in hay supplies and high-quality hay is generally in the shortest supply even when all other hay inventories seem adequate.

Read more at Hay & Forage Grower.

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