USDA predicts that 2004 production of alfalfa and alfalfa mixed hay will total 77.4 million tons, a 1% increase over last year’s production. In its October Crop Production Report, USDA said yields are expected to average 3.48 tons per acre, 0.24 ton above 2003’s average yield. Harvested area is 22.2 million acres, down 6%.

Yields are at or above last year's level in all but seven states. Across most of the Great Plains and Corn Belt, sufficient moisture in the spring favored early season development, while frequent precipitation during the summer months aided growth. In California, the central and northern parts of the state experienced ideal weather conditions, but yield increases were limited by a shortage of irrigation water.

Production of other hay is forecast at 88.5 million tons, up 10% from the 2003 amount. Based on Oct. 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 2.25 tons per acre, 0.22 ton above last year’s figure. If realized, both yield and production would be the highest on record. Harvested area is 39.4 million acres, 1% below last year’s number.