Last year's hay production was 5% lower than that of the previous year, and a severe winter and late spring resulted in heavy hay feeding.

Those factors combined to bring May 1 hay stocks down to near-normal levels, USDA reports.

The agency says May 1 stocks of all hay on farms totaled 21.1 million tons, 27% less than last year’s near-record 28.8 million. Hay fed to livestock from last December through April of this year totaled 82.6 million tons, 3% more than was fed the previous winter.

Twenty-seven of the 48 reporting states had lower hay stocks. Most states with stock declines are west of the Mississippi River, where dry conditions cut production last summer. Ten of those states reported stock reductions of 50% or more, as did Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, which also were hit by drought.

In the Ohio Valley and Northeast, hay production returned to normal following the drought of 1999. Those states reported higher May 1 stocks. The biggest increases were in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, according to USDA.