Hay production experiences regional changes

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STILLWATER, Okla. – Old Man Winter is lingering around much of the United States this year, helping to exaggerate the effects of limited forage supplies for beef producers.

“Drought in 2011 and 2012 reduced U.S. hay production while increasing hay demand, leaving the nation with extremely limited forage supplies,” said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist.

On December 1, stocks of all hay were down nearly 28 percent from a 2001-2010 average prior to the drought. States with the biggest decrease in hay stocks are, in descending order: Texas, South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota.

“These 11 states all experienced reductions in hay stocks of 1 million tons or more, accounting for 72 percent of the total decrease in December 1 hay stocks compared to the 2001-2010 average,” Peel said. “Decreased hay stocks for Texas, South Dakota, Missouri and Kansas all exceeded 2 million tons.”

In addition, drought played a major role in reducing hay production in many other states in either 2011 or 2012, or both. The 2011-2012 average all-hay production for the United States decreased 16 percent from the 2001-2010 average.

A comparable list of the top 11 states with decreased 2011-2012 average all-hay production is the same as previously cited for hay stocks with two exceptions: South Dakota and Minnesota are replaced on the list by California and Ohio.

“South Dakota did have sharply reduced hay production in 2012 but it followed high production in 2011, so the two-year average was only 9 percent below the 2001-2010 average,” Peel said.

Compared to the 2001-2010 average, the 11 states with the biggest decrease in 2011-2012 production accounted for 77 percent of the total U.S. decrease in production.

Of course, drought generally has a bigger impact on hay yields compared to harvested acreage. The recent U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service report on prospective plantings included estimated hay harvested acreage for 2013.

“Interestingly, a look at how harvested-hay acreage has changed in recent years indicates changes in hay production that go beyond the drought impacts of the past two years,” Peel said.

Compared to the 2001-2010 pre-drought average, total harvested-hay acreage for 2013 is projected to be down by 8.4 percent, a decrease of 5.2 million acres. The largest decreases by state include:
● South Dakota, down 785,000 acres or 20.2 percent;
● Wisconsin, down 599,000 acres or 30.3 percent;
● North Dakota, down 484,000 acres or 16.8 percent;
● Iowa, down 387,000 acres or 26 percent;
● Tennessee, down 307,000 acres or 16 percent; and
● Missouri, down 301,000 acres or 7.3 percent.

Rounding out the Top 11 list also includes the states of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio, all with decreased harvested-hay acreage of 200,000 to 300,000 acres compared to the 2001-2010 average. Together, these 11 states account for 79 percent of the decrease in total U.S. harvested-hay acreage.

“Most of the changes in harvested-hay acreage are not the effect of drought so much as a reflection of longer term shifts in crop production,” Peel said. “Significant amounts of hay land are being converted to annual crop production in and around the nation’s Corn Belt, from North Dakota to Tennessee.”

Peel said the decrease in harvested-hay acreage in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest regions of the United States is particularly dramatic. By contrast, some of the nation’s worst drought-affected areas, including Texas and Oklahoma, have projected 2013 harvested-hay acreage that is unchanged or shows an increase from the 10-year average.


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