DairyBusiness Update with Dave Natzke

January 18, 2013 — Corn and soybeans grabbed nearly all the attention in last week’s USDA Crop Production reports, but the updates also provided information about crops near and dear to dairy farmers – hay and other forages. DairyBusiness Updates’ Dave Natzke joined us Friday:

“Like their counterparts growing corn and soybeans, many of the nation’s hay and forage growers also suffered from the drought. USDA estimated 2012 production of alfalfa and alfalfa mixture dry hay at about 52.0 million tons, down 20% from 2011 and the lowest production level since before I was born in the mid-1950s.

Along with the drought, competition for acreage from high-priced corn and soybeans pushed the area harvested for alfalfa hay down to about 17 million acres, the smallest harvested area since 1948.

With lower production, U.S. farmers entered this year with smaller hay inventories. As of last December, all hay stored on farms totaled about 77 million tons, the smallest hay stocks for this date in 55 years.

Production of other forages, including haylage and greenchop, were also lower, although that decline was offset somewhat by increased production of corn and sorghum silage. U.S. corn silage production was the highest since 1982.

There was also bit of good news regarding future alfalfa hay production. Growers planted 2.4 million new acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures during 2012, the largest increase in seven years. That acreage will come into production this year.

While growers suffered from smaller hay and forage crops, dairy farmers who purchased feed may have suffered even more. According to USDA, November 2012 U.S. dry alfalfa hay prices averaged a record-high $217/ton, and some dairy farmers I’m hearing from are paying up to $300/ton for “dairy quality” hay.”

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