NASS’s January Crop Production report indicates that stocks of all U.S. hay stored on farms totaled 76.5 million tons on December 1, 2012, down 15.6 percent from a year ago. Hay disappearance totaled 64.7 million tons from May 1-December 1, compared with 62.7 million tons for the same period a year ago. While some Atlantic Coast States and sections of the northern tier report an increase in on-farm hay stock as a proportion of total production, the majority of States experienced a reduction in December 1 stocks, compared with the previous year.

Much of the central and western regions of the country experienced prolonged dryness and hot temperatures that served to limit pasture and range growth as well as production on commercially harvested hay and alfalfa fields. In some circumstances, where drought conditions served to reduce the availability of forage on pasturelands, producers were obliged to begin feeding their herds earlier than usual, ultimately drawing down available on-farm hay stocks.

To assist livestock producers affected by the prolonged drought of 2012, a record 2.8 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land managed under 57,000 separate CRP contracts was opened to haying and grazing. By comparison, just over 1 million acres of CRP land was made available for emergency haying and grazing in 2011. In 2005, 1.7 million acres of CRP land was made available under similar circumstances.

Roughage-consuming animal units (RCAU) in 2012/13 are estimated at 67.3 million, down slightly from 67.9 million in 2011/12. Despite reduced RCAUs, reduced hay supplies serve to decrease December 1 hay stocks per RCAU to 1.1 tons, down from 1.3 tons last year.

For 2012, the all-hay production figure totals 119.88 million tons, down from the October 1 forecast of 121.97 million tons and down 11.34 million tons from the 2011 total. Harvested area is estimated at 56.3 million acres, down 1.3 million acres from the October 1 forecast and up slightly from the 2011/12 forecast of 55.7 million acres. The average yield is 2.1 tons per acres, a decline of nearly 10 percent relative to the 2011/12 yield estimate of 2.4 tons per acre. The largest year-to-year yield declines are observed for South Dakota (down 1.1 tons/acre), Michigan (down 0.8 tons per acre), Minnesota (down 0.7 tons/acre), and several other States in the central and western United States. Additional declines occurred in several coastal States, including Maine, Washington, and Oregon. Overall, 30 States recorded year-to-year declines in hay yields.

For 2012, U.S. alfalfa and alfalfa mixture hay production, yield, and harvested area estimates are lower than 2011 figures. Production is forecast at 52.1 million tons, down from 55.6 million tons reported on October 1 and down slightly more than 20 percent from 2011. This is the lowest U.S. production level since 1953. The 2012 yield is estimated at 3.0 tons per acre, down from 3.4 tons per acre in 2011. Harvest area is down 8 percent from the October 1 forecast and is estimated at 17.3 million acres. Only in 1948 was the alfalfa harvest area estimate lower than in 2012.

Other hay production in 2012 totaled 67.8 million tons, up 2 percent from the October 1 forecast and up 3 percent from the 2011 total of 65.9 million tons. At 1.7 tons per acre, yields are down 0.07 tons relative to 2011 and up 0.03 tons from October. Harvested area increased to 39.0 million acres in 2012, up 7 percent over 2011 and up slightly from the October 1 forecast. Large year-to-year increases in harvested area in Texas (up 1.4 million acres) and Oklahoma (up 0.7 million acres) are reported, despite the severe drought. The opening of CRP land for haying boosted harvested acreage in Texas and Oklahoma as well as in a number of other States in the central and southern United States.

U.S. corn silage production is estimated at 113.5 million tons in 2012, up 4 percent from 2011. This is the highest level of silage production since 1982, when 117.8 million tons of corn silage was produced. Area harvested for corn silage is estimated at 7.4 million acres, up 24 percent from the 2011 estimate and the highest level since 1988, when 8.3 million acres were harvested. The average corn silage yield estimate is 15.4 tons per acre, down 16 percent from the 2011 yield estimate of 18.4 tons per acre. The total corn silage available per RCAU is 1.685 tons.

Sorghum silage production is estimated at 4.1 million tons, up fully 80 percent over the 2011 estimate. The 2012 sorghum silage yield is forecast to be 11.4 tons per acre, up 11 percent from the 2011 figure of 10.3 tons per acre. Area cut for silage in 2012 is 363,000 acres, up 62 percent from the 224,000 acres harvested in 2011. Total sorghum silage per RCAU in 2012/13 is estimated at 0.061 tons, a significant increase from the 0.034 tons per RCAU estimated in 2011/12. Collectively, total corn and sorghum silage available per RCAU is approximately 1.747 tons.