Pasture and range conditions opened this season with the U.S. having 20% rated as being in poor and very poor condition. That was the worst first week of the season since 2014. Western states opened the season with 32% in poor and very poor conditions, which was the highest percentage of all the regions. The Great Plains and Southern Plains report 22% and 27% of pastures in poor and very poor conditions. In the Corn Belt and the Northeast, conditions were 10% to 20% poor and very poor. The Southeast was the only region that was better off than a year ago.
The Southern Plains (OK, TX) has been showing extreme drought conditions since the beginning of the calendar year. That drought has intensified, covering most of Western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. The most recent drought monitor showed 14% of the land area in Texas is in Extreme to Exceptional Drought. For Oklahoma, that number is closer to 35%. It is somewhat surprising that more Southern Plains is not rated as being in poor to very poor condition. It is important to note that the drought monitor shows a lack of moisture throughout the soil profile. Fair and Good categories are reporting the Southern Plains as 37% and 33% respectively.
Across the Western Region (AZ, CA, ID, NV, NM, OR, UT, WA) pasture and range has 40% in good to excellent conditions even though it has the area has lots of poor and very poor conditions as well. Drought has extended beyond the Southern Plains and has covered large parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. In contrast, the Pacific Northwest is showing very little sign of dryness. Washington had only 2% of pasture in the two lowest categories, and 56% in good condition.
USDA-NASS reported May 1 U.S. hay stocks had a significant draw down in hay inventories, declining more than 8 million tons from last year’s, which represented a 36% reduction. Nationally the figure is the lowest May 1 stocks report since 2013.
Nearly half of U.S. states saw declines of 30% or more in has stocks. Those drops were not limited to drought areas. Only 16 states showed higher year-over-year May 1 stocks. In critical drought areas of TX and OK declines were over 50%, implying supplemental feeding as 2017 combined hay production declines down only 11%. Surrounding states also have large declines in inventory. Louisiana was down 63%, Missouri fell 61%, and Kansas by 30%. In most of the U.S., tight hay stocks will support new-crop hay prices, at least in the near-term.