Weather Wilts Idaho Hay Production | MARKETING content from Hay & Forage Grower

Hot, dry summer weather has severely crimped hay production in parts of Idaho so far in 2013, reports Glenn Shewmaker, forage specialist with University of Idaho Extension.

Dryland growers in the southern part of the state were especially hard hit during first-crop harvest. “In some cases, they didn’t bother to cut,” says Shewmaker. “For many who did cut, the production was marginal. It wasn’t really economical to bale.”

Irrigators’ annual hay production this year will depend on their location, he says. “In a couple of the smaller (water) basins, they’re already out of water. Some were shut off at the end of June. Others are likely to see their water allotments severely limited.”

On the Snake River, nearly all growers have had their allotments reduced. “But most of them will be able to get through to the end of the season, and production should be normal for the majority of acres,” says Shewmaker. Statewide, he looks for hay production to be about 90% of normal this year.

Dairy-quality alfalfa has been bringing $220-230/ton at the stack. Feeder hay undamaged by rain is fetching around $200/ton. “It’s really not much of a spread. As much as anything else, it shows that dairies still don’t have much money to spend on hay.”

Prospects for plentiful corn silage supplies in the state could hold a lid on alfalfa hay prices heading into fall. “A lot of people have planted corn this year. And it’s looking good because of all the hot weather we’ve had. As long as we have the water, we should see some good corn silage yields. That will lead more dairy producers to maximize corn silage in their rations as a substitute for alfalfa.”


Ag Weekly Online: Twin Falls, Idaho

IDAHO FALLS — Idaho potato growers planted fewer tubers than last year, making that statistic the best news of the annual U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual planted acreage report.

Not only was acreage down but it was much lower than many analysts were anticipating, said Paul Patterson, University of Idaho extension economist. According to the report, growers cut acres by 28,000 or 8.1 percent compared to last year’s 345,000 planted acres.

“I didn’t think growers would cut more than 20,000 acres,” he said.

Nationally, potato growers planted an estimated 1.08 million acres of potatoes, down 6 percent from 2012. A late spring in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin delayed planting in those states and contributed to the acreage reduction. Wet conditions in Maine also stalled crop development and prevented growers from completing planting. However, sharply lower market prices also prompted growers to look at alternative crops.

Patterson was also surprised by the sharp increase in alfalfa acreage this spring. Strong hay prices hadn’t been enough to lure growers into planting more alfalfa the last few years, but this year was the charm. Growers seeded 90,000 more alfalfa acres, up 6.7 percent compared to last year.

Idaho barley growers continue to go against trend. Nationwide, barley acres have been eroding steadily while acreage has increased the last few years in Idaho. Idaho planted 30,000 more acres to barley this year bringing the total 640,000 acres, up 5 percent over last year.

“It is a strong number for barley,” said Kelly Olson, administrator of the Idaho Barley Commission, “and in line with our projections.”

Improved crop insurance and a growing food barley market are helping make barley more competitive with other small grains in the Gem State. That hasn’t been true in other areas of the country where disease issues have also hurt malt quality. Nationwide, growers planted 155,000 fewer acres than a year ago. Much of that decline came in North Dakota which planted 270,000 fewer acres of barley this year.

Idaho growers often look to North Dakota for price trends in key commodities. North Dakota and Idaho are both among the top producing states of barley, spring wheat, dry edible beans and sugarbeets.

Many Idaho bean growers were afraid that the late spring would force their counterparts in North Dakota to plant less barley and spring wheat, and more dry edible beans. While barley and spring wheat acres are indeed down, North Dakota growers planted corn rather than dry edible beans. North Dakota planted 510,000 acres of dry beans, down from 710,000 acres last year. Corn acres, on the other hand, were up 8 percent over last year’s record high of 3.6 million acres.

That should be good news for Idaho bean growers even though they also reduced their planted acres by 20,000 acres. A bumper crop of dry beans last year softened prices across the nation.

CROP 2013/2012

Alfalfa 1.15 million acres 1.04 million acres

Barley 640,000 acres 610,000 acres

Canola 40,000 acres 38,000 acres

Corn 350,000 acres 360,000 acres

Dry edible beans 125,000 acres 145,000 acres

Durum wheat 5,000 acres 13,0000 acres

Potatoes 317,000 acres 345,000 acres

Spring wheat 550,000 acres 520,000 acres

All wheat 1.325 million acres 1.313 million acres

Sugarbeets 175,000 acres 185,000 acres

SOURCE: USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service


Hay swathers rolling in southern Idaho

Swathers are rolling through southern Idaho’s hay crop, and growers are optimistic about yield and quality, and the sunny weather forecast for the next 10 days.

In Twin Falls County, Clark Kauffman still has some alfalfa to cut but is already baling and stacking small bales headed for the horse market.

Yields are about normal but could be down a bit because he cut early this year, beginning May 26. Quality is good despite a day of rain that caught some of his hay in windrows. But it’s still green and leafy and will make good horse hay, he said.

In addition to a little rain, he’s battled low temperatures that kept setting the crop back and wind that kept it really dry, he said.

The cold spring weather brought frosts, same as last year when he delayed cutting. Last year’s crop kept maturing even though it wasn’t blooming, which resulted in big stems and lower quality. That’s why he cut a little early this year, he said.

That and the fact that demand is strong and prices look good.

“People are calling every day and coming and getting it. There’s not much around, especially small bales,” he said.

Hay is selling for $200 to $220 a ton, he said.

USDA Market News in Moses Lake, Wash., reports average prices for new crop Idaho hay last week were $237 a ton for supreme quality, $200 a ton for both premium and good, and about $192 a ton for fair.

Harvest of first cutting is ahead of the five-year average at 55 percent in south-central Idaho and 59 percent in southwest Idaho, compared with the average 15 percent and 25 percent, respectively, said Vince Matthews, director of the Idaho office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Harvest hasn’t really taken off in southeastern Idaho, with only 4 percent of first cutting harvested, but things are looking good despite the cool spring, said Will Ricks, president of the Idaho Hay and Forage Association and a Monteview grower.

Most producers in the area will start cutting next week, a little earlier than last year. Yield is expected to be down just a bit but quality is expected to be good, he said

In Cassia County, Wayne Hurst started cutting late last week, and overall things are looking pretty good. Tonnage is looking good even with frosts knocking the crop back, but he can’t say anything on quality yet, he said.

Cold weather in April and the first 10 days of May has Jim Blanksma running a week to 10 days late in harvesting his crop in Elmore County. He’s running dawn to dark as hard as he can, he said.

His crop has had some rain damage and frost damage, unusual in his areas, but said overall it should be pretty good hay if he can get it up with no problems. He’s expecting first cutting to yield a little more because he held off cutting it, he said.

There’s no doubt hay north of the Snake River will have some frost damage, said Jerome County Extension Educator Steve Hines.

Nighttime temperatures dropped well below freezing in early May, and there’s a chance yields will be lower due to cooler temperatures in general, he said.

Some earlier cut hay was rained on, but it was likely green chopped and put up pretty quickly. Hay that’s lying in the field now doesn’t seem to have any moisture damage. But winter mustards were pretty prevalent, and that’s likely to affect quality, he said.

Harvested acreage for all hay in Idaho is expected to be down 10,000 acres from last year to 1.33 million acres, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Nationwide those acres are expected to be up 159,000 acres to 56.5 million acres.