Corn and soybeans garner nearly all the attention, but USDA’s early-January Crop Production, Grain Stocks and World Ag Supply & Demand Estimates reports also contain other numbers important to dairy farmers, especially when it comes to forages.
Among the highlights, 2014 corn silage production set a record high; dry hay production increased over 2013, providing additional stocks heading into winter; total 2014 forage production was also up; and new seedings of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures were higher for a third consecutive year.
Corn silage: Corn silage production was estimated at 128 million tons for 2014, up 8% from 2013 and represents the highest U.S. production on record. Corn silage yield was estimated at 20.1 tons per acre, up 1.3 tons from 2013. Area harvested for silage was estimated at 6.37 million acres, up 1% from a year ago.
Based on acreage, largest corn silage producing states are Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, California, Pennsylvania, South Dakota , Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska.
States with the largest increases in corn silage acreage compared to 2013 included Minnesota and South Dakota (each up 120,000 acres), North Dakota (up 90,000), Ohio (up 60,000), Pennsylvania (up 30,000).
Sorghum silage: Sorghum silage production was estimated at 4.12 million tons, down 24% from 2013. Area harvested for silage was estimated at 315,000 acres, down 17% from the previous year. Silage yields averaged 13.1 tons per acre, down 1.2 tons per acre from 2013.
All hay: Production of all dry hay for 2014 was estimated at 139.8 million tons, down 6% from USDA’s Oct. 1 forecast, but up 4% from the revised 2013 total. Area harvested was estimated at 57.1 million acres, down less than 1% from the October 1 forecast and down 1% from 2013. The average yield, at 2.45 tons per acre, was down 0.13 ton from the October forecast but up 0.12 ton from the previous year.
Alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures: Production in 2014 was estimated at 61.4 million tons, down 5% from the October forecast but up 7% from the revised 2013 total. Harvested area, at 18.4 million acres, was up 1% from the October forecast and 4% above the previous year. Average yield was estimated at 3.33 tons per acre, 0.22 ton below the October forecast but up 0.09 ton from 2013.
Alfalfa production was generally up across the Nation in 2014 as a result of higher yields compared with 2013. Significant yield reductions were noted in many western States due to the persistent dry conditions.
All other hay: Production in 2014 totaled 78.4 million tons, down 7% from the October forecast but up less than 1% from the revised 2013 total. Harvested area, at 38.6 million acres, was down 2% from the October forecast and down 4% from last year. Average yield was estimated at 2.03 tons per acre, down 0.10 ton from the October forecast but up 0.10 ton from 2013.
Despite lower harvested acreage than in 2013, other dry hay production was up in 2014 due to improved yield. Good moisture during the growing season was beneficial.
Forages: Eighteen sates are included in USDA’s forage estimation program, which measures annual production of forage crops, with an emphasis on total alfalfa production. Haylage and greenchop production was converted to 13% moisture and combined with dry hay production to derive the total forage production.
The total 2014 all haylage and greenchop production for the 18 states in the forage program was 32.1 million tons, of which 21.8 million tons are from alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures. The total all haylage production was up 14% from last year. The 18-state total for all forage production was 95.4 million tons, an increase of 7% from 2013. Of this, 51.1 million tons were produced from alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures.
New seedings of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures: Growers seeded 2.55 million acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures during 2014, up 1% from 2013. This represents the third consecutive year of increased seeded area. The new seedings of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures will normally be harvested for the first time in the year following planting.
Wisconsin and Minnesota, which suffered heavy alfalfa winterkill the year before, led all states with new seeding, at 450,000 and 250,000 acres, respectively. Others with 100,000 acres or more of new seeding included Nebraska, South dakota, Idaho, Iowa, California and Montana.
Hay stocks on farms: All hay stored on U.S. farms Dec. 1, 2014 totaled 92.1 million tons, up 3% from the previous December. Disappearance from May 1, 2014-Dec. 1, 2014 totaled 66.9 million tons, compared with 59.9 million tons for the same period a year earlier.
Dec. 1 hay stocks were up from 2013 in many centrally located states due to larger production totals in 2014 as a result of good weather conditions during the growing season. However, persistent dry weather in several western states limited production and hay stock levels.
Link to the full USDA reports: