County ag a $102M industry in '14; tops in hay harvest again

Sep 13, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Agriculture products made in Fremont County last year and sold were worth about $102.5 million according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wyoming Business Council.

By contrast, the oil and natural gas produced in Fremont County in 2014 and sold was worth about $814 million, according to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The market value was split fairly evenly between ranching and farming, with $51.5 million of livestock products sold compared to $51 million in crop products.

Livestock

There are more cattle in Fremont County this year than there were in 2014. USDA counted 81,000 head of cattle this January in Fremont County, up from 79,000 the year before.

The uptick marked a turnaround from a decline that had been ongoing since 2009.

Fremont County's 2015 herd was the fourth largest in Wyoming after Goshen, Carbon and Laramie counties.

Local ranchers produced 51,000 calves last year --the same as the year before. The number also marked the fewest calves born in the county since 2007.

Regardless, Fremont County still is tied with Campbell County for second place in Wyoming in terms of calves produced.

Carbon County (Rawlins) had the most calves in 2014.

Fremont County's sheep flock continued its long decline this year, reaching a new low of 17,800 animals. The year before, the county had 18,300 sheep.

The number of sheep in Wyoming has been falling for about 50 years.

The average fleece in Wyoming was 9.2 pounds, up from 8.6 pounds previously but matching the 10-year average for the state. County level data for fleece weight was not provided.

Crops

Fremont County produced 172,000 tons of alfalfa hay last year, more than any other of Wyoming's 23 counties.

Still, the figure was only about two-thirds of the 254,000 tons local growers produced in 2013.

A drop in yield caused the dip: Tons per acre fell from 4.6 to 3.1.

The rest of the state saw a similar fall in yield.

The decrease in production was combined with an increase in acreage harvested in Fremont County, from 55,000 in 2013 to 56,000 in 2014.

The price of alfalfa hay fell in Wyoming last year to a statewide average of $149 per ton, down from a recent peak of $210 per ton in 2012.

Hay conditions are expected to be better this year.

Production of another major cash crop in Fremont County also fell last year. Local farmers produced 35,000 tons of sugar beets in 2014 compared to 41,000 tons in 2013. Yields for sugar beets were down from 27.3 tons per acre on average in 2013 to 21.9 tons per acre on average last year.

The production of barley in Fremont County rose last year to 235,000 bushels from 191,000 bushels in 2013.

Acres of barley harvest also went up, to 2,400 in 2014 from 2,200 the year before. The average yield increased as well, rising to 97.9 bushels per acre from 86.8 bushels per acre in 2013.

Fremont County produced the fourth-highest barley total in the state after Park, Big Horn and Washakie counties.

Fremont County ag numbers

Cattle

2014 --81,000

2013 --79,000

Sheep

2014 --17,800

2013 --18,300

Hay

2014 --172,000 tons

2013 --254,000 tons

Sugar beets

2014 --35,000 tons

2013 --41,000 tons

Malt barley

2014 --235,000 bushels

2013 --191,000 bushels

SOURCE: Wyoming Department of Agriculture (newest complete data available)