Forage claims have risen abruptly in 2017, according to Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation.
The agency has reported 975 forage insurance claims this year, up from 533 last year and higher than any year since at least 2015.
David Koroscil, MASC manager of claim services, says the agency has paid out about $4.2 million so far, with about half of the claims processed.
Last year, MASC paid out $3.2 million in forage insurance.
“We’re out in full force,” Koroscil said. “We have to go out and weigh and count all the bales to get an accurate assessment and verify those numbers.”
Both 2017 and 2018 were dry, although forage took harder hits this year. Hay harvest was still sufficient last year, although it fell below harvest in 2016, according to information from both Manitoba Agriculture and the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association, the group that runs the province’s annual Green Gold hay-testing program.
The same could not be said this year, when forage harvest dove to half its normal level or less across wide swaths of the province.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has designated almost all of agro-Manitoba for its livestock tax deferral program this year. The program requires a municipality to post half or less its average long-term forage harvest before being eligible for the program.
“I think it was really the conditions at the beginning of the year, plus the fact that there was lots of subsoil moisture last year, compared to this year,” Koroscil said.
“The forages got a little slower start than what they would normally see and then after one cut was taken, we hit the July-August heat-slash-drought period, so there really wasn’t opportunity for regrowth or a second cut in a lot of areas. Or, for some producers, they might have got a second cut, but there was no third cut,” he added.
The province hit a cold spell in late April and early May which, along with much lower winter snowfall than normal, set the stage for a late pasture turnout and slow regrowth as the dry spell continued throughout the summer.
The low forage yields led the province to open new Crown land parcels for temporary haying or grazing, although Manitoba Beef Producers general manager Brian Lemon later noted that the program ran into logistical problems, including the interplay between Manitoba Agriculture and Manitoba Sustainable Development, as well as infrastructure hurdles since most of those parcels were not fenced.
The government also expanded its Ag Action Manitoba framework to help fund water projects like wells, dugouts, or watering system equipment.
MASC adjusters are almost done with hay claims, and claim processing is ongoing, Koroscil said.