U.S. hay growers harvested fewer acres in 2004 than in any year since 1952.

That's according to USDA, which summarized last year's hay production in its Jan. 12 Crop Production report.

USDA reported that growers harvested 61.9 million acres of hay in 2004, down from 63.3 million in 2003. Alfalfa was harvested from 21.7 million acres, compared with 23.6 million the previous year.

However, favorable growing conditions in much of the country brought high yields. In fact, record hay yields were established in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ten-nessee and Washington. The overall average yield was 2.55 tons/acre, 0.06 ton higher than in 2003.

Consequently, total hay production was up slightly, at 158 million tons. Production of al-falfa and alfalfa mixtures totaled 75.4 million tons, down 1% from the 2003 total. Yields averaged 3.47 tons, up 0.23 ton from the 2003 yield.

Growers seeded 2.79 million acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures during 2004, 10% fewer than in 2003.

Stocks of all hay stored on farms totaled 114 million tons on Dec. 1, 3% more than on the same date of 2003. Stocks increased in most of the southern Great Plains states, and de-creased in many of the Western states. In California, increased demand by dairy producers resulted in lower supplies late in the year.