More than a fourth, or 28%, of 1,435 hay growers will harvest more hay or haylage acres this year over what they grew – or hoped to grow – last year. And about a third planted their new hay last fall.
That’s according to Hay & Forage Grower’s 2013 Crop Outlook Survey sent to 15,500 grower-readers across the nation.
The response to the survey, sent out the first and second weeks of April, was “phenomenal,” says Scott Grau, the magazine’s research director. “The 10% response rate was top-notch.”
What wasn’t good news, and hardly surprising to most, is that the number of hay/haylage acres will increase only slightly – about 2.2% for readers who responded.
On average, our survey-takers each grew 288 acres of hay or haylage in 2012. More than half, 57%, are planning to grow the same acreage this year as they did last year. Nearly 14% will decrease hay/haylage acres in 2013.
Of the nearly 400 growers who said they have expanded or will increase hay or haylage acres, 42% indicated it was because they needed more feed for their livestock. Almost equal to that, or 41% of respondents, said they were upping acres because of hay demand and prices. A little more than a fourth of this group of growers seeded new acres as part of a normal crop rotation.
The 200 growers who indicated they were dropping hay/Fhaylage acres were offered four specific reasons to choose from as well as “other.” Twenty-five percent indicated that they were rotating crops. Another 24% decided to switch to other higher-value crops. Nine percent have fewer livestock and about 5% chose to answer that making hay is too much work.
But write-in comments showed that nearly 17% of these growers have or will cut acres because they are concerned about drought or water availability. Another 13% wrote in that they lost rental land.
Just more than 400 of the total respondents indicated they also grow an average of 220 acres of corn silage. They suggested only a slight increase – 0.5% – in silage acres for 2013. A fourth of these growers plan to grow more silage and half will chop just what they did last year. About 16% said they’ll cut down on the number of corn silage acres grown this year.
Almost all survey takers answered the question: “With drought predicted to continue this year, are you changing your cropping plans?” Only 21% – about 314 growers – said they would do so.
Just about all of those growers took the time to tell what they are planning. Here’s a grouping of some of those answers:
• Many will plant fewer acres of corn, wheat or alfalfa; a few are giving up on alfalfa. Some won’t plant until it rains or won’t plant some acreage until fall. Others won’t plant on non-irrigated acres or plan not to irrigate some acres. Some will sell water rather than irrigate; others will add irrigation.
• More growers will plant cover crops, more diverse crops, more corn or wheat or legumes or forage sorghums. Several mentioned growing high-yielding summer annuals, drought-tolerant or drought-resistant crops, brown midrib crops, barley and other small grains, and the list goes on.
• Some won’t fertilize, or will fertilize only irrigated acres. Others plan to fertilize differently or earlier or more often – some more on first cut because that’s the cutting they’re confident they’ll get. A few growers mentioned that they’d watch their plants’ micronutrient needs and build up their soil.
• A number of growers mentioned changing their tillage practices: fall deep tillage, minimum-till or no-till. One said he’s tried them all and failed.
• Some will increase crop insurance on row crops; one is switching to row crops in part because of the lack of good insurance available on hay.
• More growers will cut their hay earlier to get available moisture and cut later in fall. Some will give more time between cuttings and others will cut hay higher.
• A few mentioned renting or adding more forage acres.
• Others mentioned pasturing hay land and managing pastures better.
• One likely Southern grower wrote he was raising more annual forage crops, including spring-planted triticale for baleage followed by a fall-planted forage soybean.
• Some are discouraged, saying they’re renting out their ground or will quit farming or have no water to grow crops. One will “worry more.”
Overall, growers appear to want to make the most of a potentially bad situation. Many said they would better-manage their crops and pastures, use better varieties and change their crop lineup.