Persistant drought for more than two years sent U.S. hay production down nearly 18% to 120 million tons last year producing the lowest stock level since 1974, according to Derrell Peel, livestock marketing specialist with Oklahoma State Univerisity.
The shortage across Arkansas is among the worst in the nation.
Peel said Arkansas is among eight states that saw a 30% decline in hay production last year when compared to the most recent five-year average.
Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin accounted for more than 61% of the national decrease last year.
A total of 21 states saw 2012 hay production down more than 20% from the five year average. Hay production in Oklahoma and Texas was up significantly from 2011 but was still down more than 30% from the 2006-2010 average, Peel reported.
The combination of reduced hay production and increased hay feeding due to drought the past two years leaves the U.S. with severely depleted forage supplies.
Total U.S.hay stocks as of Dec. 1 totaled 76.5 million tons, the lowest level since 1974.
Hay stocks are down 25.5% from the 2006-2010 five year average. The reduction is severe in many state, including Arkansas. Arkansas and Michigan had Dec. 1 stock levels down 55% from the 2006-2010 average.
Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming all had Dec. 1 stock levels down more 40% from the five year average.
Arizona, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas all had Dec. 1 hay stock levels down more than 30% from the five year average stock level.
Peel said pasture conditions in most regions are similarly poor.
“Anecdotal indications are that crop aftermath, especially corn stalks, have been heavily used this winter to provide critical feed resources for cattle. The latest Climate Prediction Center forecast for drought conditions indicates little improvement in much of the country through the forecast period to the end of April,” Peel notes.
He said If drought conditions extend into spring the impact on cattle is likely to be severe and will no doubt lead to another significant round of cow herd liquidation beginning in the second quarter of the year.