Keri Collins Lewis
In spite of variable rain across Mississippi, hay producers increased acreage and yields in 2012. When it's said and done, hay could be the fourth most valuable crop in Mississippi, behind, soybeans, corn and cotton.
"Hay production systems in the central part of the state had a really good season," said Rocky Lemus, Mississippi State University Extension forage specialist. "We've been blessed with quite a bit of rain in central Mississippi, and the hay crop has been better than average.
"On the other hand, in the northern region and southwestern corner of the state, we're under severe drought conditions, so the hay production systems in those areas are on the fair side," he said.
John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with MSU's Extension Service, said current reports put Mississippi hay production at 750,000 acres, up from 720,000 acres in 2011. If yields are consistent with the state's average of 2.42 tons per acre, the state's 2012 hay production would be 1.82 million tons. This is an increase over the 1.73 million tons produced in 2011.
"Currently, reported prices translate to about $45 to $55 per ton," Riley said.
The season average price will likely be higher, about $80 per ton, which would put hay's value at $145.2 million for the year, he said.
"Hay has the potential to be the fourth most valuable crop in Mississippi, behind soybeans, corn and cotton," Riley said.
Lemus said good weather conditions have allowed producers to plant their rye grass and winter forages ahead of schedule.
"About 90% of the winter crops have been planted, and some of them have already germinated two weeks ahead of schedule for what we usually see around the state," he said.