By: Livestock Marketing Information Center
USDA-NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service) estimated this year’s hay harvest at 132.6 million tons based on crop conditions as of August 1, down 2% from last year. The estimate of area harvested was unchanged from the figure shown in their June acreage report and only up a fraction of a percent from last year. Alfalfa hay harvest volume is down 3.6% from last year, even though area harvested expanded 1.3%. All other hay production is close to unchanged from last year. Both area and average yield of other hay were changed by less than a percent from last year.
Drought in the Dakotas and Montana pulled down non-Alfalfa hay production. Average per-acre hay yields in North Dakota dropped 24% for Alfalfa hay and 37% for other types of hay. North Dakota hay production is pegged to be down 28% from last year. South Dakota hay production is expected to be down 8% from last year. The big difference between North Dakota and South Dakota hay crops is the 14% increase in harvested area of other hays than Alfalfa. The increase in area harvested offset the average harvest per acre. Between these two states, Alfalfa area harvested was unchanged from 2016 to 2017. Average Alfalfa harvest yield in South Dakota was down 10% from 2016, a much more modest decline than in North Dakota. Hay production in Montana is down 13% this year.
Hay production was up in some regions, in order to counter-balance the declines in the Northern Plains. Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina are all seeing hay production volume up by a doubledigit percent this year. Colorado Alfalfa hay production is up 15%. Iowa Alfalfa production is up by a similar amount, percent and volume-wise. Interestingly, two states contiguous to Colorado and Iowa are showing big declines in Alfalfa production. The Kansas harvest is down 14% and Minnesota Alfalfa output is down 21%. Lastly, production on non-Alfalfa type hay in Oklahoma is down 16%, for the most part due to less harvested area. Alfalfa hay production in Oklahoma is picking up some of the slack, offsetting about half the decline in other types of hay.