Growers harvested slightly less hay last year than in 2009, and more was fed last fall, in part because hay feeding started early due to dry conditions. The result was 5% less hay stored on farms going into this winter than at the start of the previous one.

In its January Crop Production report issued yesterday, USDA estimated Dec. 1, 2010, hay stocks at 102 million tons, down from 107 million tons on Dec. 1, 2009. Hay disappearance from May to December totaled 64.4 million tons compared to 62.5 million tons for the same period a year earlier.

Compared with 2009 figures, hay stocks decreased in most states, with Connecticut and Delaware showing the largest declines, at 37% and 34%, respectively. Only 11 states had higher stocks, with the largest percentage increases being in Michigan and Montana, where hay production increased significantly last year.

USDA’s final estimate of the 2010 hay crop shows production of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures at 67.9 million tons, down from 71 million tons in 2009. The average yield was 3.40 and 3.35 tons/acre in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Production of other hay totaled 77.65 million tons last year, up from 76.4 million tons in 2009. The average yield was 1.95 tons/acre from 39.9 million acres harvested.