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Opinion by Todd Ballard

Wyoming Census of Agricultural Results by Todd Ballard

What a difference a year makes. Wyoming saw record snowpack across the state in 2011, which resulted in record flooding. Although 2012 was the exact opposite, the record snowpack from 2011 helped irrigated producers have record or near record crops. As the drought continued to engulf a large part of the U.S., hay prices rose to record levels, while the lack of adequate pastures and low hay production caused Wyoming hay stocks to end the year at 950,000 tons, the lowest level going into the winter months on record. 

So how did above normal temperatures and a longer growing season affect crops and livestock across the state? The warmer temperatures, longer growing season and adequate irrigation water favored sugarbeets, dry beans and corn as record yields were achieved.

Winter wheat did not fare well as production was down 32 percent from last year due to decreased acreage and yields. Wheat producers saw dry conditions at planting and throughout the growing season to decrease yields nine bushels over 2011. Barley production was down 13 percent from 2011 due to reduced acres and an eight bushel per acre decrease. Oat production was down 62 percent, which is the lowest production on record.

Row crop production did well in 2012. Since most of our row crops are irrigated, they thrived with the warmer temperatures and mild spring and fall. Statewide these crops did well, but there were areas that ran out of irrigation water.

How did all of these factors affect row crop production? Corn for grain production totaled 8.52 million bushels, down six percent from last year. Acres harvested for grain were down 10,000 acres but yields were up 12 bushels to a record 142 bushels per acre. Although corn for grain harvested acres were down corn silage production, at 770,000 tons, was up 40 percent from the previous year. 

All dry bean production totaled 1,007,000 hundredweight, up 39 percent from 2011. Harvested area, at 42,000 acres, was up 9,000 acres from last year. Average yield was up nine percent to 2,400 pounds per acre, a record high for Wyoming. 

Sugarbeet production totaled 895,000 tons, up four percent from last year. Harvested acreage was up 400 acres from 2011, average yield at 28.6 tons per acre, was up 0.8 ton per acre. Sugarbeet yield, at 28.6 tons per acre, was the highest yield on record, surpassing last year’s record and making it the fourth year in a row that sugarbeet yield has set a new record.

All hay production in Wyoming totaled 1.89 million tons in 2012, down 20 percent from the previous year. Alfalfa hay production totaled 1.33 million tons, down 16 percent from last year. Alfalfa harvested acreage was 475,000, down 145,000 acres from last year. The average yield was up 0.3 ton to 2.8 tons per acre. Other hay production totaled 560,000 tons, down 30 percent from 2011. Acreage cut for other hay totaled 400,000 acres, down 100,000 acres from 2011 and the lowest acreage since 1919. Average yield for other hay was 1.4 tons per acre, down 0.2 ton from last year. A total of 40,000 acres were newly seeded to alfalfa, up 8,000 acres from 2011.

Picking up final production numbers in December allowed a first look at how many acres were seeded to winter wheat for the 2013 crop. Producers in Wyoming planted an estimated 145,000 acres, down three percent from 2012.

In January producers were asked to provide inventory numbers for cattle, sheep and goats. 

Cattle and calves on Wyoming farms and ranches on Jan. 1, 2013 totaled 1.29 million head, down nine percent from last year and the lowest level since 1992. Beef cows that have calved decreased three percent from last year to 694,000 head and the lowest level since 1991. Beef cow replacement heifer inventory was 171,000 head, up 6,000 head from a year ago. The 2012 calf crop totaled 660,000 head, down 20,000 head (or two percent) from 2011. The U.S. cattle numbers dropped to 89.3 million head which is the lowest Jan. 1 inventory since 1952.

Wyoming operators owned 375,000 sheep and lambs on Jan. 1, 2013, up one percent from 2012. The number of breeding sheep and lambs was 225,000 head while the number of market sheep and lambs was 100,000 head. The 2012 lamb crop in Wyoming at 240,000 head, docked or branded, is up four percent from the 2011 crop of 220,000 head. Mild weather during lambing significantly reduced lamb death losses.

Total milk, meat and other goats on Wyoming farms and ranches totaled 5,800 head on Jan. 1, 2013, unchanged from the previous year.

Wheat and barley county estimates were published Dec. 13, and corn county estimates will be published Feb 21. The sheep loss report will be released Feb. 22, and the cattle loss report will be released around March 1. As we move into March, we will take a peek at the expected outlook for the 2013 crop year with the Prospective Plantings release on March 28. All eyes will be on this report to see what producers are expected to plant this year.

I want to thank the producers who take the time to respond to these surveys. Your responses are greatly appreciated. As always, all reports are kept strictly confidential and used only in combination with other reports. All of our publications can be accessed at nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wyoming.

Remember it is not too late to respond to your Census of Agriculture! This is your opportunity to tell your story. Answers to the Census impact farm programs and rural services supporting your community.