Feed it if you've got it, or better yet, sell it if you can! Hay that is.

According to the Oct. 19 "Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook" from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), hay production is estimated at 147 million tons this year, down 2.4% from last year; May 1 hay stocks were down 23% from a year ago.

Consequently, explain ERS analysts, "Hay supplies are likely to be fairly tight and expensive for this winter, particularly if a more normal winter pattern develops following the mild winter last year."

According to ERS, the September farm price of other hay averaged $93/ton, up from $78.90 a year ago. Alfalfa hay prices averaged $112/ ton, up from $106. Depending on where you live, you've been paying lots higher prices to make for such a low average.

Other hay production is forecast to be down 3% from 2005. Alfalfa hay production is estimated at 2% less.

On a happier note, ERS says pasture conditions continue a modest recovery, though favorable temperatures and moisture are still needed to accumulate much-needed growth for winter grazing.

Plus, rains in recent weeks, along with improved soil moisture, are making wheat pasture look more promising.

For the week ending Oct. 29, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 28% of pasture is rated Good or Excellent, compared to 29% last year. 22% is rated Poor and 17% is ranked Very Poor, compared to 21% and 16% respectively at the same time last year.

States with the worst pasture conditions -- at least 40% of the acreage rated poor or worse -- include: Alabama (50%); California (84%); Florida (50%); Kansas (46%); Missouri (56%); Nebraska (45%); Nevada (40%); North Dakota (50%); Oklahoma (58%); Oregon (55%); South Dakota (44%); Texas (54%); and Wyoming (63%).

States where pasture conditions are best -- at least 40% rated good or better -- include: Arizona (52%); Idaho (40%); Illinois (54%); Indiana (67%); Iowa (48%); Kentucky (73%); Maine (75%); Maryland (53%); Michigan (50%); New Mexico (62%); New York (40%); North Carolina (65%); Ohio (68%); Pennsylvania (56%); South Carolina (55%); Tennessee (42%); Utah (56%); Virginia (62%); Washington (41%); West Virginia (55%); and Wisconsin (46%).
-- Wes Ishmael, BEEF Stocker Trends