Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

2024 winter hay stocks hold steady across the Great Plains 

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As February comes to a close, many producers across the Great Plains are months into feeding hay, and with persistent cold temperatures and calves on the way, they are likely to continue dipping into their hay stocks for weeks to come. 

Oklahoma State University Livestock Marketing Specialist Derrell Peel points out, so far, the 2024 hay situation is better than it was a year ago, although hay stocks remain below long-term averages in most states. 

“Current severe winter weather will significantly increase hay usage and highlights the reality the overall forage situation is questionable going forward,” Peel states.

2023 hay production 

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the Crop Production 2023 Summary, which shows all hay production across the U.S. in 2023 was 6.3 percent higher year-over-year from 2022, but was 7.8 percent below the 10-year average from 2012-21. 

Total alfalfa hay production in 2023 was 2.2 percent higher than the year prior, but 9.8 percent lower than the 10-year average, and total other hay production was up 9.5 percent from 2022, but 6.3 percent below the 10-year average. 

According to USDA, total Dec. 1, 2023 hay stocks were 6.9 percent higher than the previous year, but were 10.8 percent below the 10 year-average. 

Hay stocks in the top 10 beef cow states – Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Kentucky, Florida and North Dakota – were 18.5 percent higher than in 2022, but 7.3 percent below the 10-year average. 

USDA’s crop summary notes total Dec. 1, 2023 hay stocks in these states represented 52.8 percent of total U.S. hay stocks.

State-by-state hay summary

According to the Feb. 8 Wyoming Direct Hay Report, published by USDA, hay has sold steady on a thin test and demand has been light. 

“Most contacts still have ample tons of hay sitting in hay sheds, tarped or outside waiting for someone to call and purchase their inventory,” reads the report. “Some locals continue to purchase hay on a weekly basis. The selloff of beef cows across the state the last couple of years has taken many mouths off of the winter feeding needs, so cattlemen haven’t needed much hay to buy.”

Similarly, in Montana, hay sold steady to five dollars higher. Hay sales were light to moderate in the state, but drought concerns have started to weigh on some producers and they have begun buying hay as a precaution, according to the USDA. 

South Dakota’s Direct Hay Report shows alfalfa hay selling steady to weak, with moderate demand for dairy-quality alfalfa and good demand for grass hay and corn stalks. 

“There are very muddy ground conditions as the temps stay above freezing, even overnight, which has caused the snow to be gone now,” reads the report. “Livestock producers are having to bed heavily to try to keep their livestock dry since it is so muddy.” 

The Nebraska Direct Hay Report notes alfalfa and grass hay, ground and delivered hay and alfalfa pellets have sold steady. Demand for round and large squares has been light to moderate, and demand for small square bales has been good.

In Kansas, demand remains light, while alfalfa prices remain soft and grass hay continues to retain its value. USDA explains most hay in the state is being moved on previous contracts.

Trade activity in the neighboring state of Colorado remains light on moderate demand, and retail and stable hay sold steady with a few instances of 50 cents per bale lower, according to the state’s direct hay report. 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

Back to top