U.S. growers harvested slightly more hay last year than in 2008, and less was fed last summer and fall due to lower cattle numbers. The result was 3% more hay stored on farms going into this winter than at the start of the previous one.

In its January Crop Production report, issued earlier today, USDA estimated Dec. 1, 2009, hay stocks at 107 million tons, up from 103.6 million tons on Dec. 1, 2008. Stocks increased in the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, northern Great Plains and the Southeast with the exception of Florida. Stocks decreased in the southern Great Plains and Great Lakes states.

Hay disappearance from May to December 2009 totaled 62.3 million tons compared with 64.2 million tons for the same period a year earlier.

USDA’s final estimate of the 2009 hay crop shows production of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures at 71 million tons, up from 69.6 million tons in 2008. Acreage was estimated at 21.2 million compared with 20.98 million the previous year. The average yield was 3.35 and 3.32 tons/acre in 2009 and 2008, respectively. Production of other hay totaled 76.4 million tons last year, up from 76 million in 2008. The average yield was 1.98 tons/acre from 38.5 million acres harvested.