Producers grapple with potential hay shortage

Depending on where you’re located, what you have for cattle feed could be drastically different then what your neighbour 10 miles away has. It also differs from province to province.

It’s been dry in much of Western Canada, as well as parts of Ontario, resulting in low yields and producers scrambling for feed come the fall. According to Saskatchewan’s most recent crop report, two-thirds of the provinces hay and pasture land is short or very short on moisture.

“It all depends on where you’re at,” says Rick Toney, chairman of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association. “I have a friend up north and he’s got more than enough hay, things are going good, but guys down in the Val Marie or Pontiex area haven’t had about an inch of rain all year and — they’re very short of hay.”

Toney went on to say some cattlemen are even having to resort to reducing their herd because of the lack of feed and the fact that hay has been short in the past couple of years. Sadly, he added some are evening having to “pull the pin” and sell off their entire herd.

Travis Peardon with Saskatchewan Agriculture echoed Toney, but adds there are alternatives in some cases.

“What were seeing is a lot of the cattle guys are working with their grain farming neighbours to find straw to bail up — probably going to be a lot of straw and grain fed to cows this winter to get them through,” Peardon says.

He added it’s not out of the ordinary for cows to be on a straw and grain diet, the producers just has to be aware of adding a mineral program and to consult with a nutritionist to make sure the grain and straw are balanced.

(As a side note, just last week, Anne Wasko spoke with RealAg’s Shaun Haney about yearlings being taken off the pasture early as signs of drought continue to show its face. Wasko predicted more producers will do the same as the summer time comes to a close.)

Not as different as most think to the east

In Ontario, it’s the norm for producers to get a second and even third cut of hay, but this year could be a bit different. Grazing and forage specialist with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Christine O’Reilly says some regions are drier than normal so a second cut at this point, looks to be unlikely or chances are, will have a much lower yield than previous years.

However, O’Reilly adds producers are still hopeful for a good rainfall in August.

“I think the reason some people are concerned right now is because we had challenging growing conditions the last two years, so our inventory of hay means the buffer of forage that’s already stored is lower the normal,” O’Reilly says.

Unlike those in the west, she adds she doesn’t believe producers are at the point of thinking about reducing their herd or having to change their feed. She points out many are just having to start using their stored forage earlier than what they would have liked.

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