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Is hay starting a comeback?

By Jerrold Tesmer

Mon, Apr 23rd, 2012
Posted in All Agriculture

In all the excitement about the large acreages of corn in the Prospective Planting Report on March 30, a small item that is important to Southeast Minnesota may have been largely ignored. Producers intend to harvest 57.3 million acres of all hay in 2012, up three percent from last year’s record low. If realized, this will be the second smallest harvested area on record.

Producers in several States – Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – intend to harvest record low acreages. Producers in Illinois expect to harvest a record-tying low acreage.

Generally, all hay harvested acreage east of the Mississippi River is expected to decrease in 2012. Conversely, producers from the Great Plains westward intend to harvest more hay this season following the unusually dry conditions that limited hay production in 2011.

As the chart below shows, Minnesota and Wisconsin both project increases in acres of hay.

About the time I saw the projected hay production numbers, I stumbled across a chart of Historic Crop Enterprise Profits pulled together by Extension Educator David Bau from the SW Farm Business Management Association. This was profit per acre for the years 2004-2010. We know that corn and soybeans have been on an unprecedented profitability run for the last seven years, but they are not always the top two for profit per acre.

For 2004-2010, corn silage was ranked number one at $181.46; alfalfa hay number two at $156.03; corn number three at $141.79; and soybeans number four at $97.01. There were three years in seven that corn was valued higher than corn silage; and four years in seven where alfalfa hay was higher value than corn. Of these four principle crops, soybeans always came in fourth.

I think this tells me that if dairy and beef would have a seven year run of profits we’d see the trend to more corn and soybeans reverse. Profitable livestock enterprises are good for hay production. Hay production is good for soil conservation in Southeast Minnesota.

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