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Forage economic outlook in Midwest

Dan Undersander Published on 30 January 2011

Forage yield in 2010 was generally average or above average across the Midwest. Good rain occurred over the entire growing season which elevated hay and pasture yield.

Temperature was average or higher in the last half of the season to produce high corn grain and silage yield.

Those growers who harvested first cutting before May 31 generally got good-quality forage, while later harvesting was delayed further by rain and resulted in low-quality hay.

Also, as would be expected, good rain means that poor haymaking conditions occurred over the middle part of the growing season.

The end result has been good tonnage production with little high-quality hay or haylage. Hay prices for quality hay have remained strong. Hay prices on the University of Wisconsin hay market report ( indicate that as of January 1, 2010, dairy-quality hay (greater than 150 RFQ) remained strong and was priced at $159 per ton while low-quality hay (103 to 124 RFQ) had fallen to $72 per ton for large square bales.

Hay use for the winter has been average, so unless more severe winter occurs to increase hay use, the stocks carried over into next year are expected to be above average. Rough Consuming Animals Units of the Midwest are expected to remain constant into 2011, unlike the national average which projects slight declines.

Therefore, the demand for hay in 2011 should remain relatively constant.

One factor that will positively affect forage use is the high grain prices. Some dairymen are looking to increase forage in the dairy ration to reduce feed costs. The limitation is the availability of high-quality forage.

High corn and soybean prices will likely reduce the seeded acreage of forages, especially with the high carryover stocks. The amount of reduction will not be great since continued use of forage in dairy rations, possibly with a slight increase, requires certain levels of production, especially with the low supply of dairy-quality hay.  FG