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What’s really going on out there?

FG Editor Lynn Olsen Published on 30 May 2011

Mother Nature has really been playing tricks on all of us this spring. We have excess moisture in the form of flooding and rain which made it difficult to get into the fields to plant.

Cool temperatures in many areas have kept forage growth slow, delaying first- hay cuttings or making it necessary to feed additional hay while pastures grow enough to turn out animals for grazing.

Other locations are experiencing continued drought and a lack of any available forage resources.

All of these factors play into the forage outlook for the coming year. As if weather wasn’t enough, fuel prices and forecasts for other commodities, including dairy and livestock, also influence what will happen this season. How many forage acres will be in production? Where are prices headed?

I’ve watched USDA’s reports this spring, but I always wonder if it’s an accurate representation of what’s actually happening out in the field.

The Prospective Plantings report released by the USDA in March shows overall hay production down only 1 percent compared to 2010’s 59.8 million acres.

That came as a big surprise to many in the industry, as we expected a much higher decrease in acreage. It will be interesting to follow the reports and see if that is an accurate prediction.

Prices received for hay by type U.S. april 2011

The Agricultural Prices report is another one to keep an eye on (see an excerpt in Table 1 above (click on the table to see full-sized) with data for the top five forage-producing states).

It shows the average prices received for hay in April 2010, March 2011 and preliminary for April 2011 (the most recent release date).

Prices for forage are generally higher than a year ago, but are they indicative of what you are seeing in your area?

Back in January, I received a note from a producer in Wyoming in relation to the market reports section of the magazine.

He wrote, “While reading your market reports I discovered that your prices for Region 7 were at best $20 to $30 per ton too low and your demand reports were way off.

In the beginning of December, demand for hay sky-rocketed. The feedlots in the region started buying large amounts of alfalfa hay and quickly began realizing that hay was in shorter supply than first thought.

The price of utility and fair-quality hay jumped $15 to $20 per ton in the matter of a week and has continued to rise slowly.

“The alfalfa market is very susceptible to any information since there is no basis for how it is traded except supply and demand.

When you give a report that is under the market, you are really hurting alfalfa producers.”

I told him we can only report the numbers we have, but would welcome feedback from our readers. So my challenge to you is to speak up!

How many acres do you have in forage this year? Is it more or less than 2010? What are hay prices like in your area? Have you taken your first cutting?

How is your corn silage crop growing? Is your pasture meeting your livestock’s needs?   FG

00 olsen lynn

Lynn Olsen
FG Editor
(800) 320-1424


Note added June 8, 2011: I've been getting some great responses from producers around the country. Thank you to those who have responded. If you'd like to read their responses, click here: "What's going on out there" reports