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Guest Opinions

Opinion by Todd Ballard

Written by Todd Ballard
Wyoming Ag Statistics Reveal Snapshot of State’s Ag Industry
By Todd Ballard, Director, Wyoming Field Office, National Agriculture Statistics Service
    2011 was a year of records. Wyoming saw record snowpack across the state, which also resulted in record flooding as we moved into summer. Ironically, lack of moisture in Texas and Oklahoma had dramatic effects on Wyoming producers. Hay prices soared to record levels as the drought in the southern states continued. Wyoming hay stocks ended the year at 1.3 million tons, the lowest level since 2002 and the second lowest since 1962. Those record hay prices enticed many producers to sell hay, with a disappearance of 1.415 million tons – the largest on record.
    So how did the cooler spring, mild summer and mild fall affect crops and livestock across the state? The good growing conditions favored sugarbeets and other hay as record yields were achieved for these crops.
    Winter wheat production was down five percent from last year due to decreased acreage. Wheat producers saw dry conditions at planting and throughout the winter, but received timely rains in late spring and early summer to improve yields two bushels over 2010. Barley production was up one percent from 2010 due to increased acres. Oat production was up four percent due to increased harvested acres, although yields were down considerably from last year.
    Row crop production was mixed in 2011. The wet spring provided an ample supply of irrigation water, and the dry fall allowed harvest to be completed ahead of normal. Grasshoppers were a problem in some areas, but not to the extent that they have been in past years. Hail was a problem in several areas, especially in the southeast corner of the state. Flooding was seen in several areas of the state due to heavy spring rains and runoff from snowmelt.
    How did all of these factors affect row crop production? Corn for grain production totaled 9.01 million bushels, up 50 percent from last year. Harvested acres were up 20,000 acres, and yield was up nine bushels. Corn silage production, at 550,000 tons, was down 17 percent from the previous year. All dry bean production totaled 726,000 hundredweight, down 29 percent from 2010. Harvested area, at 33,000 acres, was down 14,000 acres from last year. Average yield was up slightly at 2,200 pounds per acre.
    Sugarbeet production totaled 840,000 tons, up two percent from last year. Harvested acreage was up 600 acres from 2010, average yield, at 27.1 tons per acre, was up 0.1 tons per acre. The sugarbeet yield, at 27.1 tons per acre, is the highest yield on record.
    All hay production in Wyoming totaled 2.35 million tons in 2011, down five percent from the previous year. Alfalfa hay production totaled 1.55 million tons, down four percent from last year. Alfalfa harvested acreage remained the same as 2010 at 620,000 acres, but the average yield was down 0.1 ton to 2.5 tons per acre.
    Other hay production totaled 800,000 tons, down six percent from 2010. Acreage cut for other hay totaled 500,000 acres, down 70,000 acres from 2010. Average yield for other hay was 1.6 tons per acre, up 0.1 from 2010. Other hay yield, at 1.6 tons, is tied with 1993 and 1999 for highest on record. A total of 32,000 acres were newly seeded to alfalfa, up 2,000 acres from 2010. As of Dec. 1, 2011, Wyoming farms and ranches had 1.3 million tons of hay on hand, down 24 percent from 2010.
    In picking up the final production numbers in December, we also got our first look at how many acres were seeded to winter wheat for the 2012 crop. Producers in Wyoming planted an estimated 160,000 acres, up seven percent from 2011.
    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, 2012 totaled 1.36 million head, up five percent from last year. Beef cows that have calved increased three percent from last year to 714,000 head. Beef cow replacement heifer inventory was 165,000 head, up 25,000 head from a year ago. The 2011 calf crop totaled 680,000 head, up 20,000 (or three percent) from 2010.
    Wyoming operators owned 370,000 sheep and lambs on Jan. 1, 2012, up one percent from 2011. The number of breeding sheep and lambs was 270,000 head, while the number of market sheep and lambs was 100,000 head. The 2011 lamb crop in Wyoming, at 220,000 head docked or branded, is down four percent from the 2010 crop of 230,000 head.
    Total milk, meat and other goats on Wyoming farms and ranches totaled 5,800 head on Jan. 1, 2012 compared to 6,900 head the previous year.
    Releases for wheat and barley county estimates were published Feb. 9 and corn county estimates will be published Feb. 23. The sheep loss report will be released Feb. 17, 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 2012 crop year with the Prospective Plantings release on March 30.
    I want to thank the producers who take the time to respond to these surveys. Your response is greatly appreciated. As always, your report is kept strictly confidential and used only in combination with other reports. All of our publications can be accessed on our website at nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Wyoming.