USDA’s 14% estimated increase in Georgia’s harvested hay acres this year is too high, says University of Georgia Extension forage specialist Dennis Hancock.

“Overall, I’d estimate that the increase in perennial hay acres is more likely to be somewhere around 3%,” he says.

“With beef producers rebuilding their herds and extremely poor hay production in the state last year, it’s likely we’ll see some increase in the acres of winter annuals, bermudagrass and select other perennial hay crops in the northern part of the state,” Hancock agrees. “But much of that increase is being offset by the number of acres that are being plowed up for row crops, especially peanuts, in other parts of the state.”

In its March 30 Prospective Plantings report, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) estimated a 20% rise in peanut production in the state. The harvested hay estimate, at 670,000 acres for an increase of 14%, included producer intentions to harvest peanut-crop residue for hay.

That residue, Hancock adds, is commonly baled for hay because it can have a high nutritional value with a relative forage quality (RFQ) of 120-150.

He has asked NASS to collect future data differently to better reflect conditions. Hancock would like the agency to distinguish between acres planted specifically for hay and those where crop residues might be baled for hay.