2014 dairy forage situation off to better start in most areas

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When it comes to forages, U.S. dairy producers are generally in better shape entering 2014 than they were a year ago, based on January USDA monthly and annual Crop Production reports, released Jan. 10. Going forward, a lot will depend on Mother Nature, and how much moisture she provides.

Hay stocks higher

USDA estimated all hay stored on U.S. farms on Dec. 1, 2013 totaled 89.3 million tons, up 17% from a year ago. Hay stocks were up from low 2012 levels as improved weather conditions lead to larger production totals in many states when compared with last year’s drought. Disappearance from May 1-Dec. 1, 2013 totaled 60.5 million tons, compared with 64.7 million tons for the same period a year earlier. 

Among major dairy states, stocks in Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Texas were down slightly from a year ago; stocks in California, Oregon and Washington were unchanged; and stocks in Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin were higher.

Hay stocks decreased in the Southeast, Delta and Southwest where production was lower in 2013. To find the hay stocks data, click here.

New alfalfa seeding increased in 2013

Growers seeded 2.52 million acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures during 2013, up 5% from 2012. This represents the second consecutive year of increased seeded area, but it is still the third smallest seeded area of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures for the United States.

Despite higher levels in new seeding nationally, nearly half of all major dairy states saw declines compared to 2012. They included California, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. 

Compared to a year earlier, new seeding acreage was unchanged in Arizona, Michigan and Virginia.

Acreage increased in 10 states: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin. Individual state data is not compiled for Florida.

In other major alfalfa hay producing states, new seeding acreage was higher in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Hay production

Production of all dry hay for 2013 was estimated at 136 million tons, up 13% from the 2012 total. Area harvested was estimated at 58.3 million acres, up 4% from last year. The average yield, at 2.33 tons per acre, was up 0.20 ton from the previous year. 

Alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures

U.S. production of alfalfa and alfalfa mixture hay in 2013 was estimated at 57.6 million tons, up 11% from 2012. Harvested area, at 17.8 million acres, was 3% above the previous year. Average yield was estimated at 3.24 tons per acre, up 0.23 ton from 2012. 

Alfalfa production was generally up across the country as hay conditions improved over the drought-affected crop of 2012. Exceptions occurred in the Southwest, where producers noted that dry conditions had a major negative impact on their ability to cut non-irrigated alfalfa hay.

All other hay

Production of other dry hay in 2013 totaled 78.4 million tons, 16% more than 2012. Harvested area, at 40.5 million acres, was up 4% from last year. Average yield was estimated at 1.93 tons per acre,  up 0.19 ton from last year. 

Other dry hay production also rebounded from the drought-affected crop of 2012. However, dry conditions in the Southwest hindered non-irrigated production, while untimely rainfall in the Mississippi Delta led to hay quality issues because producers were unable to bale mowed hay. 

U.S. corn silage production highest since 1981

USDA’s annual Crop Production report estimated 2013 corn silage production at 118 million tons in 2013, up 4% from 2012. It represents the highest U.S. production since 1981. The United States silage yield was estimated at 18.8 tons per acre, up 3.4 tons from 2012. Area harvested for silage was estimated at 6.26 million acres, down 15% from a year ago. 

Sorghum silage

Sorghum silage production was estimated at 5.42 million tons, up 31% from 2012. Area cut for silage was estimated at 380,000 acres, up 5% from the previous year. Silage yields averaged 14.3 tons per acre, up 2.9 tons per acre from 2012. 

Other forage

Eighteen states are included in USDA’s annual forage estimation program, which measures annual production of forage crops, with an emphasis on total alfalfa production. Haylage and greenchop production is converted to 13% moisture and combined with dry hay production to derive the total forage production. 

The total 2013 all haylage and greenchop production for the 18 states in the forage program was 28.0 million tons, of which 18.5 million tons are from alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures. The total all haylage production was up 6% from last year. The 18-state total for all forage production was 89.6 million tons, an increase of 13% from last year. Of this, 46.0 million tons were produced from alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures.

To find the USDA hay and forage production data, click here.

Cottonseed estimate raised, but still small

One final feed-related note: Production of cottonseed for 2013, based on a 3-year average lint-seed ratio, was expected to total 4.41 million tons, up slightly from December's estimate, but down 22% from last year. Even with the increase, the annual cottonseed harvest remains the smallest since 2009.


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