WINTER is lingering around much of the U.S. this year, serving to exacerbate the effects of limited forage supplies for beef producers.
"Drought in 2011 and 2012 reduced U.S. hay production while increasing hay demand, leaving the nation with extremely limited forage supplies," Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel said.
On Dec. 1, 2012, stocks of all hay were down nearly 28% from a 2001-10 average prior to the drought. States with the biggest decrease in hay stocks, in descending order, are: Texas, South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota.
"These 11 states all experienced reductions in hay stocks of 1 million tons or more, accounting for 72% of the total decrease in Dec. 1 hay stocks compared to the 2001-10 average," Peel said. "Decreased hay stocks for Texas, South Dakota, Missouri and Kansas all exceeded 2 million tons."
In addition, drought played a major role in reducing hay production in many other states in either 2011 or 2012 or both. The 2011-12 average all-hay production for the U.S. decreased 16% from the 2001-10 average.
He noted that a list of the top 11 states with decreased 2011-12 average all-hay production was the same as the list for hay stocks, with two exceptions: California and Ohio replaced South Dakota and Minnesota on the list.
"South Dakota did have sharply reduced hay production in 2012, but it followed high production in 2011, so the two-year average was only 9% below the 2001-10 average," Peel said.
Compared to the 2001-10 average, the 11 states with the biggest decrease in 2011-12 production accounted for 77% of the total U.S. decrease in production.
Of course, drought generally has a bigger impact on hay yields than harvested acreage. The recent U.S. Department of Agriculture "Prospective Plantings" report included estimated hay harvested acreage for 2013.
"Interestingly, a look at how harvested-hay acreage has changed in recent years indicates changes in hay production that go beyond the drought impacts of the past two years," Peel said.
Compared to the 2001-10 pre-drought average, total harvested-hay acreage for 2013 is projected to be down 8.4%, a decrease of 5.2 million acres. The largest decreases by state include:
* South Dakota, down 785,000 acres, or 20.2%;
* Wisconsin, down 599,000 acres, or 30.3%;
* North Dakota, down 484,000 acres, or 16.8%;
* Iowa, down 387,000 acres, or 26%;
* Tennessee, down 307,000 acres, or 16%, and
* Missouri, down 301,000 acres, or 7.3%.
Rounding out the top 11 list were Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio, all with decreased harvested hay acreage of 200,000-300,000 acres versus the 2001-10 average. Together, these 11 states account for 79% of the decrease in total U.S. harvested-hay acreage.
"Most of the changes in harvested-hay acreage are not the effect of drought so much as a reflection of longer term shifts in crop production," Peel said. "Significant amounts of hay land are being converted to annual crop production in and around the nation's Corn Belt, from North Dakota to Tennessee."
Peel said the decrease in harvested-hay acreage in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest regions of the U.S. is particularly dramatic. By contrast, some of the nation's worst drought-affected areas, including Texas and Oklahoma, have projected 2013 harvested-hay acreage that is unchanged or shows an increase from the 10-year average.