Hay supplies reach record highs – with good yields, large carryin, and higher area harvested; alfalfa hay harvested acres and production rise; range and pasture conditions improve; hay prices expected to decline for 1991/92 – U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Economic Research Service report
Record yield, large carryin, and higher area harvested combine to produce hay supplies of 158 million tons for 1991/92.
Supplies for the current year have been bolstered by continued large beginning stocks – matching the 1990/91 total of 27.1 million tons. However, a high harvested area and a record hay yield in 1991/92 resulted in record production, almost 3 million tons above the previous record in 1986/87. As a result, the Nation’s hay supply for 1991/92 is forecast at 158.4 million tons, up over 11 million from a year earlier.
Hay’s harvested acres rose in 1991/92 from 61.6 to 63.1 million acres, reversing a 2-year decline. Major hay producing States that registered relatively large growth in the number of harvested acres this year include South Dakota (the leader once again, gaining 300,000 acres), Texas and Minnesota (each with an increase of 200,000 acres), and Montana (gaining 150,000 acres). Wisconsin, again the largest producer, registered no growth in harvested acres. Nebraska’s harvested acres declined the most (300,000) as harvesting from set-aside acres and prairie-hay acres diminished following 1990/91’s high.
Alfalfa Hay Harvested Acres and
Alfalfa hay is being harvested on over 25.8 million acres in 1991/92, up 2 percent from the previous year. Harvesting of all other hay types is estimated on 37.3 million acres in 1991/92, up from 36.2 million a year earlier.
Production of alfalfa hay and alfalfa mixtures rose significantly in 1991/92 to 87.3 million tons. This is up over 3.7 million tons, or 4 percent, from last year. Much of the Nation’s alfalfa production is consumed in the major dairy States scattered across the country. However, alfalfa outturn improved from 1990/91 in only 3 of the 10 largest dairy States: Minnesota and Wisconsin (each with excellent growing conditions resulting in significant yield gains), and Texas. Typically adverse weather conditions across the Corn Belt and northeastern States were responsible for declining yields and production losses in other major dairy States, including Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
All other hay production rose 12 percent to exceed 71 million tons in 1991/92. This hay, in contrast to alfalfa hay, is primarily fed to beef cattle. The Texas “other hay” crop outturn rose from 7.6 million tons to 10.0 million this year, as weather conditions improved to allow crop yields to rise 25 percent to 2.5 tons per acre. Other beef producing States with production gains included Florida, Kentucky, Montana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Year-to-year reductions were registered in Kansas and Nebraska.
Hay Prices To Decline
In 1990/91 the average price received by farmers for hay fell from $85.40 to $83.20 per ton. Even so, the 1990/91 price remained relatively high, following a runup in the years immediately after the 1988 drought. Both alfalfa hay and other hay prices fell as well. For the year, alfalfa hay prices received by farmers averaged $89.20 (down $4.60 per ton) and other hay prices fell only 40 cents to $65.10 per ton.
Through the first half of the 1991/92 hay year (May-April) prices received by farmers for all hay, alfalfa, and other hays are all down sharply from a year earlier. All hay prices averaged $72.47 per ton, down over $15 per ton from a year earlier. Alfalfa hay prices are down over $17.50 per ton, while other hay prices are about $7 per ton lower. This, however, is only a partial indication of year-long prices, as weather conditions in the upcoming winter and spring months could alter dairy and beef-cattle demand for hay, which in turn may drive prices higher or lower.
The number of roughage consuming animal units (RCAUs) in 1991/92 is estimated at 78.8 million. This is an unusually large increase of 3 million from the 1990/91 estimate. Most of the increase is in beef cattle not on feed, whose numbers swelled to over 56.5 million. However, the large gain in hay production for the year was more than enough to offset the RCAU gains, and as a result, the hay supply per RCAU for 1991/92 is forecast to grow from 2.30 tons to 2.35 tons. This is the most since 1987/88, when supplies per RCAU amounted to 2.36 tons. Hay disappearance per RCAU will likely grow from 1.94 tons in 1990/91 to around 2 tons per unit in the current year. If consumption per RCAU in 1991/92 matches that of the previous year, hay consumption will reach almost 153 million tons, leaving well over 32 million tons in carryover stocks for the 1992/93 year.
Range and Pasture Conditions
Range and pasture conditions through the end of October 1991 indicate a slight improvement over last year. At a rating of 72 percent, conditions are in the middle of the “poor to fair” category, slightly below the 1980-89 average of 73 percent. Conditions deteriorated during October; the index was 77 on October 1, up 7 percentage points from a year earlier.
While California’s rating is up from the drought-ravaged 34 percent in 1990 to 55 percent in 1991, it is still rated “very poor.” California’s average rating over the 1980’s, however, was 79 percent. Other States with significant improvement in range and pasture conditions from a year ago are the Delta States (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) as well as Minnesota, Montana, and Wyoming. Wyoming had a 99-percent rating. However, ratings for Nebraska (58), Kansas (58), Arizona (55), Virginia (57), West Virginia (50), South Carolina (56), Oregon (56), and Pennsylvania (50) were all well below a year ago.
COPYRIGHT 1991 For more information, contact US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Phone: 1-800-999-6779 (8:30-5:00 ET)
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