Feed it if you've got it, or better yet, sell it if you can! Hay that is.

According to the Oct. 19 "Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook" from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), hay production is estimated at 147 million tons this year, down 2.4% from last year; May 1 hay stocks were down 23% from a year ago.

Consequently, explain ERS analysts, "Hay supplies are likely to be fairly tight and expensive for this winter, particularly if a more normal winter pattern develops following the mild winter last year."

According to ERS, the September farm price of other hay averaged $93/ton, up from $78.90 a year ago. Alfalfa hay prices averaged $112/ ton, up from $106. Depending on where you live, you've been paying lots higher prices to make for such a low average.

Other hay production is forecast to be down 3% from 2005. Alfalfa hay production is estimated at 2% less.

On a happier note, ERS says pasture conditions continue a modest recovery, though favorable temperatures and moisture are still needed to accumulate much-needed growth for winter grazing.

Plus, rains in recent weeks, along with improved soil moisture, are making wheat pasture look more promising.

For the week ending Oct. 29, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS):

  • Corn -- 68% is harvested, which is 10% behind last year and 3% behind the five-year average. In the Northern Plains and adjacent areas of the Corn Belt, harvest progressed rapidly under mostly dry conditions, advancing 29 points in Minnesota, 25 points in North Dakota, and 23 points in South Dakota.
  • Soybeans -- Growers have harvested 83% of the crop, compared to 91% at this time last year and 85% for the average. Harvest was complete in Mississippi and nearly complete in Louisiana, Minnesota and the Dakotas, but trailed behind normal across most of the Corn Belt. As with corn, producers in the eastern Corn Belt were well behind normal due to soggy fields.
  • Winter Wheat -- 91% of the crop is sown, 1% less than the same time last year but the same as normal. 73% of the crop has emerged, 2% behind last year, and 3% behind the normal pace. 60% is rated good or excellent, compared to 61% at the same time last year.
  • Sorghum -- 90% is mature, compared to 86% last year and 87% for average. In the two largest producing states, Kansas and Texas, progress trailed 5 and 3 points behind normal, respectively. 59% has been harvested, compared to 69% last year and 69% for average.
  • Pasture -- 28% is rated Good or Excellent, compared to 29% last year. 22% is rated Poor and 17% is ranked Very Poor, compared to 21% and 16% respectively at the same time last year.
States with the worst pasture conditions -- at least 40% of the acreage rated poor or worse -- include: Alabama (50%); California (84%); Florida (50%); Kansas (46%); Missouri (56%); Nebraska (45%); Nevada (40%); North Dakota (50%); Oklahoma (58%); Oregon (55%); South Dakota (44%); Texas (54%); and Wyoming (63%).

States where pasture conditions are best -- at least 40% rated good or better -- include: Arizona (52%); Idaho (40%); Illinois (54%); Indiana (67%); Iowa (48%); Kentucky (73%); Maine (75%); Maryland (53%); Michigan (50%); New Mexico (62%); New York (40%); North Carolina (65%); Ohio (68%); Pennsylvania (56%); South Carolina (55%); Tennessee (42%); Utah (56%); Virginia (62%); Washington (41%); West Virginia (55%); and Wisconsin (46%).