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2024 pasture conditions optimistic

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Conditions at the beginning of the 2024 forage growing season suggest producers may be able to plan grazing and hay production with less restriction compared to recent years.

However, in some cases, pastures and ranges still need time to recover from extended drought conditions.  

On May 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its Crop Production report, identifying significantly improved pasture conditions and beginning hay stocks are in better shape compared to 2023.

NASS surveyed approximately 8,300 producers across the country in preparation for the Crop Production report, and according to the report, total U.S. hay stocks as of May 1 were 21 million tons, up 46.6 percent year-over-year. 

Record-high hay stocks were estimated in Montana, Oklahoma and Utah.

Current May 1 total stocks were 8.9 percent higher than the 10-year average from 2013-22, and one year ago May 1 stocks were 25.7 percent below the 10-year average. 

This improvement indicates producers got through the winter in better shape and still have some forage reserves going forward.

Hay stocks report

According to the USDA NASS Crop Production report, May 1 hay stocks for the largest beef cow states, including Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Montana, representing just over 51 percent of the total beef cow inventory of the country, were collectively up 81.4 percent year-over-year and are 9.4 percent above the 10-year average, accounting for 54 percent of total U.S. hay stocks.

Hay stocks for these states were mostly higher year-over-year, with South Dakota up 52 percent from last year. Missouri and Kentucky had fractionally lower hays stocks this year.  

Hay stocks on Montana farms and ranches as of May 1 totaled a record high 1,590,000 tons, an increase of 253 percent from stocks of 450,000 tons on hand last year. Hay production for 2023 totaled 5.3 million tons, 28 percent higher than production in 2022.

The USDA NASS Crop Production report states Wyoming’s hay stocks as of May 1 totaled 515,000 tons, an increase of 171 percent from stocks of 190,000 tons on hand last year, and hay production for 2023 totaled 2.55 million tons, six percent higher than production in 2022. 

South of the Cowboy State, Colorado hay stocks totaled 800,000 tons, an increase of 371 percent from record-low stocks of 170,000 tons on hand last year, while hay production for 2023 totaled 3.12 million tons, 14 percent higher than the record-low production in 2022. 

Pasture and  range reporting

USDA NASS also released its seasonal report on pasture and range conditions on May 13, showing the percent of U.S. pastures and ranges in poor to very poor condition was 24 percent, compared to 33 percent at the same time one year ago, with 47 percent of pastures and ranges currently rated in good to excellent condition, compared to 34 percent last year.

The report further shows regional pasture and range conditions underwent significant improvement year-over-year.  

The Climate Prediction Center’s seasonal forecast is calling for above average temperatures and below average precipitation for the next three months in the majority of beef cattle country, while the U.S. currently has less drought than any time in the last four years.

The Great Plains states of Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota have 12.29 percent of pastures and ranges in poor to very poor condition, compared to 31.29 percent one year ago. The Southern Plains, consisting of Oklahoma and Texas, have 26.5 percent of pastures in poor to very poor condition this year, compared to 47.5 percent last year.  

The eight states west of the Great Plains region have 14.63 percent of pastures and ranges in poor to very poor condition, compared to 20.5 percent one year ago.

Local reporting

Released on May 26, the USDA NASS Crop Condition and Progress report states Wyoming’s pasture and range condition is reported to be good to excellent, an improvement from last year’s report.

Goshen County reported greener pastures due to precipitation received during the week, while Lincoln County reported rain received during the week, along with cool temperatures during the day, helping rangeland conditions immensely along with slight progression of crop growth.

The local report continues to note Platte County is experiencing windy conditions, with adequate water supply for the season, planting progression and greener pastures, due to the precipitation received.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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