A mild winter so far has taken pressure off tight supplies in most parts of Oklahoma, according to Jack Carson, reporter for USDA-Oklahoma Department of Agriculture (ODA) Market News in Oklahoma City.

“The hay trade here in recent weeks has been almost non-existent,” he says. “For the most part, users have already covered their immediate needs. All of that panic buying we saw late last summer and through the early fall has stopped. The movement we’re seeing now, trucks going up and down the highway, is with hay that was bought severalweeks ago.”

Among other things, the absence of extremely cold temperatures and snow this winter has led to an abundant supply of wheat pasture throughout most of the state. “Livestock producers haven’t had to do as much supplemental feeding as they were doing a year ago or that we were anticipating just a few months ago.”

Recent rainfall in many parts of the state has also helped livestock producers. “Native winter grasses have responded well,” says Carson. “We still need more rain, though, especially to keep those wheat pastures going.”

With demand slackening, prices for some hay types are starting to drop substantially. “Buyers are becoming more selective and prices are definitely softer for lower-quality hay, especially the grass hays. Eight weeks ago, we saw some sales of overmature and, in some cases, weedy native prairie hay selling for $80-100/(round) bale. People were that desperate. Today, that same hay would have to be priced at $60-70/bale to get anybody to take a second look at it.”

Another indicator of how much the demand has dipped: Carson reports that he hasn’t received a single call from anyone looking for hay in the last two or three weeks. “In late summer and early fall, I was getting multiple calls every day,” he says, adding that he has been getting several calls a day from people looking to list hay for sale on the in-state and out-of-state hay directories he maintains on ODA’s Web site.

“All in all, it’s been quite a turnaround and one that I didn’t anticipate just a few weeks ago. At the same time, though, we’re not out of the woods by any means. If we get a blizzard, things could go back the other way in a heartbeat.”

To contact Carson, call 405-522-3752 or email jack.carson@ag.ok.gov.