Despite Chilly Weather, Haying Nears

Despite the early morning frost—and promise of another blast overnight—Langlade County growers are preparing for haying.

Traditionally, the tractors, choppers and bailers begin appearing in area fields in mid-June, and— with a few lulls to allow the alfalfa, timothy and other grasses to rejuvenate—continue through the growing season.

To the south, the USDA reported that rye was already being harvested for hay this week.

Hay is a big business, in Langlade County and across much of Wisconsin.

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Services, growers harvested 1.25 million acres of alfalfa in 2014, along with 390,000 acres of other hay. Average yield was about 3.3 tons of alfalfa and 1.9 tons of other hay per acre. Total harvest reached 4,125,000 tons of alfalfa and 741,000 tons of other grasses.

Langlade County is at the northeast corner of the hay-growing region, harvesting 23,900 tons of alfalfa in 2014. Growers cut 7,610 acres and reported a yield of 3.15 tons per acre. The county produces other hay as well, with 3,280 acres cut in 2014, producing a yield of about 1.9 tons per acre, for a total of 6,300 tons.

Grant County was the largest dry alfalfa hay producing county in Wisconsin during 2014 with 195,300 tons, according to the service. Other top producing counties were Green, Vernon, Iowa, and Dane Counties, each above 130,000 tons.

Taylor County was the largest producer of other dry hay (excluding alfalfa) in Wisconsin during 2014 with 40,200 tons, according to the service. Rusk (38,100) and Bayfield (30,700) also topped 30,000 tons.

Alfalfa yields were generally up across the state. Walworth County had the highest average yield, at 4.30 tons per acre. Three other counties recorded yields above 4.00, including Jefferson (4.20), Lafayette (4.15), and Green (4.05) Counties. Four counties had published yields under 2.10 tons per acre in 2014. Ashland and Florence Counties tied for the lowest yield, at 1.95 tons per acre followed by Bayfield (2.00), and Douglas (2.05) counties.

Statewide, other hay yields were up 0.10 ton from 2013 to 1.90 tons per acre in 2014. Washington County recorded the highest average yield at 2.85 tons per acre, followed by Taylor, Rusk, Vernon, and Walworth all at 2.15 tons per acre. Vilas County recorded the lowest yield in the state, at 1.15 ton per acre.

As Wisconsin enters the 2015 growing season, dry hay stores across the state is estimated at 710 thousand tons, the third lowest May stocks since records began in 1950, behind only 2013 and 2014.

Across the nation, hay stock levels were record-lows in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The service explained that while improved weather conditions in 2014 led to larger production totals in many states, the Northeast saw notable declines due to winter conditions that persisted into early April, requiring additional supplemental feeding.

An Antigo Daily Journal photo shows forage being chopped and loaded on Angle Road in mid-June, 2014.

An Antigo Daily Journal photo shows forage being chopped and loaded on Angle Road in mid-June, 2014.

Source: Antigo Daily Journal