Late-season rain bolstered hay-yield expectations in some areas, but overall U.S. production will be down significantly from 2010 levels, USDA verified earlier today.

In its Oct. 12 Crop Production report, the ag department points out that adequate rainfall led to higher yield predictions in portions of the West, and moisture from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee stimulated hay growth in the Mississippi Delta, Tennessee Valley and several states along the Mid-Atlantic coast. But predominantly dry weather in the Four Corners and Southern Great Plains regions adversely affected the alfalfa crop in those areas. Oklahoma growers are expected to harvest the lowest alfalfa yield since 1956, and Texas producers are expecting the lowest yield since 1970, the report states.

USDA now expects production of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures to total 64.7 million tons, down fractionally from its Aug. 1 forecast and down 5% from last year’s total. Based on Oct. 1 conditions, yield is expected to average 3.35 tons/acre, 0.05 ton/acre less than in 2010. Harvested area is forecast at 38.3 million acres, down 4% from last year’s number.

Production of other hay is forecast at 67 million tons, down slightly from the August estimate and 14% below last year’s production. If realized it will be the lowest production since 1993. Yields are expected to average 1.75 tons/acre, unchanged from the August forecast but down 0.20 ton from 2010’s average yield. It would be the lowest U.S. yield since 1988. Harvested area is expected to total 38.3 million acres, 4% fewer than were harvested last year.