California growers reduced alfalfa acres this year, shifting land into corn and wheat production, says Seth Hoyt, senior economist with the National Agricultural Statistics Service's California Field Office. He reports in the July issue of the California Alfalfa and & Forage Association News that there were 950,000 alfalfa hay acres in California in June 2007, the lowest number since 1997. Acreage of other hay is estimated at 620,000 acres, 90,000 acres above last year's figure. Hoyt says corn for grain acres were up 73% from 2006 in the state, and wheat acres were up 23%.
He says dairy producers in central California planted sudangrass this spring after harvesting wheat for silage. Typically, most sudan hay in California is grown for export to Japan.
Dry-cow hay has been bringing record prices this summer. Fair-quality alfalfa hay delivered to Tulare in mid- to late June averaged $179/ton, $50-60/ton more than during the same period last year, according to Hoyt. Some dairymen were using wheat straw in total mixed rations for dry cows. Wheat straw delivered to Tulare dairies in mid- to late-June brought a record-high $80-95/ton.
The latest inventory showed around 1.8 million dairy cows in California. Hoyt speculates there may not be the normal amount of milk cow hay in summer and early fall. Supplies of higher-quality alfalfa hay remain light in the West. The combination of lower acres and the possibility of lower yields in California and other Western states may contribute to the shortage. A hard spring freeze reduced first-cutting tonnage in Nevada and other Western states. Hoyt says alfalfa hay production could decline in the second half of the season in central California due to the likelihood of surface water shortages. Out-of-state shipments of alfalfa hay into California might increase, but there may be stiff competition from buyers in other states. Hoyt says alfalfa and other hay production in the West could be impacted by dry conditions, with the southern half of California, along with Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and southeastern Oregon, being the hardest hit.
Alfalfa's second cutting produced about half the normal yield in southeastern Michigan, according to Michigan State University. The dry conditions made baling much more timely than during the first cutting. Potato leafhopper numbers have been down. Oats have been harvested, and yields were below average.
Parts of southwestern Michigan have been extremely dry this summer, too. Growth has been virtually non-existent in alfalfa fields and pastures where rain has not fallen. Growers are encouraged to watch for potato leafhoppers in fields that have received rain or are irrigated. Leafhopper numbers remain very high.
Alfalfa's second and third cuttings are under way in west-central Michigan. Yields are very low -- 30-40% of normal in many cases. Slow, spotty regrowth due to dry weather is generally seen in this part of the state. A July 25 shower deposited 1-2" of rain across much of Montcalm County. Until that point, dryland crops were under significant moisture stress as rains had been highly variable and light. The rain will give many who irrigate a much-needed break. High temperatures the last two weeks have been in the upper 70s to low 80s.
Rainfall varied across central Michigan over the past two weeks. It has been mostly hit and miss with more areas missed than hit. Reported rainfall amounts range from 0.5" to over 2". The region is in need of moisture in the very near future to prevent further yield loss. The second alfalfa cutting is nearly complete, and yields have been very disappointing. Dry weather and leafhoppers cut yields to 50% of normal or less. Leafhopper populations seem to be low at this time. Fields scouted last week were below threshold. Hay producers are being told to keep sweeping fields for leafhoppers. Growers on early cutting schedules will begin third cutting next week. Summer seedings will take place in the next two weeks.