Cool weather slowing pasture growth

Overnight frosts likely didn’t hurt alfalfa stands

Frost and cold weather are delaying hay land and pasture growth this spring — this while some producers with short feed stocks are looking to put cattle out early.

On May 13, temperature lows across the province included -8.5 C at Brandon, -8.1 C in Steinbach, and -10.2 C in Dauphin, according to Environment Canada data.

“Presently pastures are short and there isn’t much grass for grazing,” said John McGregor, an extension specialist with Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association. “Once we get a return to normal weather conditions, we will start to see some accelerated growth.”

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The May 12 provincial crop report indicates that pasture and hay growth are slow across Manitoba. In the east and southwest, some producers are fertilizing stands, the report said.

Availability of forage is a concern for some producers, particularly in Parkland and Interlake areas. Interlake cattle producers were hit especially hard by drought in 2019, leading several rural municipalities to declare a state of agricultural disaster.

Alonsa-area producer Mark Good said farmers in his area are planning to turn cattle out to pasture early. Good said there isn’t much carry-over grass to mix with new grass because of the drought, and he expects to move from pasture to pasture more quickly than usual this spring.

Good said he plans to feed until the first week of June to give grass time to grow.

Despite overnight frosts, McGregor said he wasn’t overly concerned about alfalfa winterkill.

“Having said that, the -9 temperatures reported Monday a.m. could have damaged any new growth on the alfalfa,” he said.

He added that if alfalfa was damaged, this could range from mild wilting that will recover with warm weather to new growth and buds being frozen.

“Rarely would a frost like that actually kill the alfalfa plant but if it has to send out new growth there would be a delay to first harvest,” McGregor said. “Fortunately if it has to happen, now is a good time, as the alfalfa has just started to grow and we haven’t lost six inches of new growth like in past experience.”

About the author

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Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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