Forage Harvest Seen Larger This Year

Forage availability could go up this winter as more acres of grass and alfalfa hay are harvested than last year.

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service Acreage report Thursday, farmers and ranchers intend to harvest 56.127 million acres of grass or alfalfa hay.  This is up 1.69 million, or 3.10%, from 54.437 million last year.

Of that, 18.065 million, or 32.2%, is expected to be alfalfa hay, and 67.8%, is from all other hay types.

The report said 18.065 million acres of alfalfa hay were expected to be harvested, up 287,000, or 1.6%, from 17.778 million last year.  All other hays (mostly grass) were expected to be 38.062 million acres, up 1.403 million, or 3.83%, from 36.659 million in 2015.

Harvested area of hay was expected to increase of hold steady in most southern and western states.  The most significant declines were expected in the Northern Plains states, the USDA said.

Precipitation and irrigation water supplies in western states were much closer to normal this year, compared with recent years, encouraging producers to utilize more hay ground.

In many of those western areas, grass and pasture land is only good for this type of production – either grazing or haying.  The dry conditions of recent years kept many from harvesting any forage from these acres, and they are returning to production this year.

It is interesting to note that statistics for alfalfa production were not available from several states.  Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina were not broken out as alfalfa or other hay.  Thus, the forage acreage was included in “all other” hay and repeated in the “all hay” data.

That means, some of the acreage listed as “all other” hay likely is alfalfa hay and not grass hay.




Meanwhile, weekly NASS reports show that US range and pasture conditions are declining normally with the exception of the Northeast where they are declining at a faster-than-normal rate.  However, range and pasture conditions remain well above the 2010-2014 average.

The quality of pastures in the Northeast have been below par all year and are returning to sub-par levels at a very fast rate.

But the amount of land dedicated to pastures in the Northeast is small in comparison with similar land in western states.  This is why Northeastern forage land has little influence on the US total.




Cash cattle markets this week were up about $6 per cwt from last week at mostly $122 on a live basis.  The full range of reported prices was $116 to $123.  In dressed markets, prices were up mostly $10 at $195, with some earlier in the week at $185.

Cattle markets last week were $4 to $5 per cwt lower at $116 to $117.  Dressed markets traded at $184 to $185.

The USDA’s choice cutout Thursday was $0.13 per cwt lower at $208.44, while select was off $0.87 at $195.01.  The choice/select spread widened to $13.43 from $12.69 with 101 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $143.81 per cwt, up $2.54.  This compares with the Aug settlement Thursday of $144.30, up $1.25.