Hay and straw may be abundant or short this fall depending on the area, and how much it will sell for is anybody s guess.
Glenn Friesen, a MAFRI business development specialist based in Carman, said that al though haymaking is still in progress in many areas, yields so far are above average on higher ground that was spared the worst of the spring flooding.
But on wetter land, yields were below average, or effectively nil because haying equipment couldn t get on the land.
Overall, it s hard to say if we re going to be above or below average on the yields, said Friesen. There s still some coming in and there are big hopes on this last cut, but we need some rainfall to make that transpire.
Friesen added that in his area, a lot of straw is being baled, both in round bales for the local beef market, and in squares for export to the U.S.
Hay and straw prices south of the border are through the roof, he said, and that could spark extra production, especially for straw that might normally be left on the fields.
Pam Iwanchysko, a MAFRI forage specialist based in Ste. Rose, said that in her area, a lot of hay producers were pleasantly surprised with higher-than-normal yields.
Especially on their first cut, once they started haying they were surprised at how much they actually got, she said, adding that many were lucky enough to catch a window of dry, hot weather that left the swaths in good condition.
The midsummer dry spell wiped out chances for a second cut, however, and many ranchers north of Ste. Rose ended up grazing their crop instead of rolling it up.
A later rain arrived to save the day, making a second cut possible for those who waited, she added.
PRICES HARD TO DETERMINE
Hay prices are difficult to pinpoint, said Iwanchysko, and not much has been changing hands at this point.
Many ranchers are still undecided as to whether they might liquidate their herds this fall to benefit from the government s offer of tax deferral, or keep them. Iwanchysko said that generally in her area, hay typically doesn t start moving in earnest until December or January.
I heard that in the Ste. Rose area it was around four cents per pound, she said. That s a wee bit high from my standpoint.
Three-and-a-half cents has been the long-term average for top quality, but many beef producers are no longer willing to pay that much, she added.
Spring flooding wiped out millions of cereal crop acres in the province, and that has led to looming shortage of straw in some areas that ranchers need as a cheap roughage in cattle diets and for bedding material.
Around Ste. Rose, straw is very much in short supply due to failed crops, and prices have soared almost as high as hay in some cases.
There s lots of people looking for straw, said Iwanchysko.
QUALITY IN SHORT SUPPLY
In the southwest, Sourisbased MAFRI forage and rangeland specialist Jane Thornton said that the hay crop in her area was a little better than expected but not as good as other years, mainly due to flooded acres.
I think that this spring, people though it was going to be more dismal than it turned out, she said. However, I think that hay is not going to be really abundant this year, so I m expecting good-quality hay to be more expensive.
Trade in hay is just beginning, so price discovery is difficult. It s still early, but Thornton suspects that straw might be in short supply due to unseeded acres. A lot of crops got blasted by heat at the wrong time, she added, which left the stalks severely stunted.
But then again, I have seen some beautiful straw rolled up. It s kind of hit and miss, she said.
On the typically lighter soils on hayland in the southwest, and amid the scorching August heat and high winds, haymakers were faced with a real head scratcher: flooded pockets amid signs of drought stress, sometimes on the same field.
There s acres still under water, but anything that was higher has kind of run out of moisture, Thornton said.
Early first cuts were good, but second cuts suf fered amid the extended period of hot, dry weather as the summer wore on.
Commercial hay producers are looking to their third cut to make up for lost volume, she added.
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