Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist
The May USDA Crop Production report included hay stocks for the beginning of the hay crop year, May 1. Total U.S. hay stocks were down 6.9 percent year over year and are 15.1 percent below the 2012-2021 average. This follows a nearly 12 percent decline in May 1 stocks last year and a December 1 stock level that was down six percent year over year. The ongoing drought continues to squeeze available hay supplies and widespread drought this year is a severe threat to 2022 hay (and range/pasture) production.
May 1 hay stocks in the 17 plains and western states were down 17.7 percent year over year.
After two years of drought in some areas, hay stocks in the West are down 36.6 percent from 2020 levels and are down 27.1 percent from the 2012-2021 average. The hardest hit region is the northern plains and Rocky Mountain states with Montana down 53.6 percent year over year, and down 55.4 percent from the ten-year average for the state. Also sharply lower were North Dakota, down 45.3 percent, South Dakota, down 50.5 percent, and Wyoming, down 38.5 percent from 2021 levels. In total, this four-state region had May 1 hay stocks down 49.2 percent year over year. This level is down 48.1 percent from the ten-year average level for the four-state total. These four states had 15.1 percent of beef cows on January 1.
The southern plains region of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas had May 1 hay stocks down 12.0 percent year over year and down 25.3 percent from the 2012-2021 average. Oklahoma hay stocks on May 1 were down 47.8 percent year over year, and are 43.5 percent below the ten-year average for the state. Kansas hay stocks were down 26.4 percent from last year and 32.5 percent below the 2012-2021 average. May 1 hay stocks in Texas were up 33.3 percent year over year but remain 10.6 below the ten-year average for the state. The three states accounted for 26.6 percent of beef cows in the country on January 1, 2022.
The Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah has been in drought since 2020. The region uses relatively little hay and has a low density of beef cows. May 1 hay stocks in the four-state area was up 19.4 percent over last year but remain 32.5 percent below the 2012-2021 average. Hay stocks were down year over year in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada but up from last year in Utah. These four states account for an average of 2.9 percent of U.S. May 1 hay stocks and included 4.0 percent of U.S. beef cows on January 1.
California and the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho had May 1 hay stocks up 6.1 percent from last year, but down 15.0 percent from the ten-year average. Hay stocks were up in California by 27.3 percent and slightly above the ten-year average. Idaho also had May 1 hay stocks above last year by 29.3 percent but is 10.3 percent below the 2012-2021 average for the state. Washington and Oregon were both down year over year, 18.2 and 24.1 percent respectively, and both are more than 25 percent below the ten-year average for each state. This region accounts for 6.3 percent of the total beef cow herd.
In terms of May 1 hay stocks, Colorado and Nebraska are unique among the 17 western states. Colorado had hay stocks up 152.2 percent year over year and up 30.3 percent over the ten-year average. Nebraska had May 1 hay stocks up 25.0 percent year over year and 14.1 percent above the 2012-2021 average. Despite the improvement in hay stocks for these two states, drought conditions persist and pasture and range conditions are diminished in 2022.
In all of these 17 western states, drought continues widespread. More than 50 percent of the U.S. beef cow herd is directly threatened by drought. Across the country more than 50 percent of pastures and range are in poor to very poor condition. That majority of this pasture and range is in these western states. The bleak prospects for pasture and hay production, combined with continued diminishment of hay stocks, suggests that significant and severe impacts on cattle herds are ahead as summer approaches.
Derrell Peel, OSU Extension livestock marketing specialist, discusses the possibility of mass liquidation of cattle if the drought continues throughout the western U.S. from SunUp TV on April 2, 2022.