Spring moisture conditions promising for Prairie forage producers

Lots of snow means it’s shaping up to be a good year for forage production across Western Canada.

Much of the Prairies was fairly dry at freeze-up but that’s not a major concern now, provincial forage officials say.

Most of Manitoba has seen at least average winter precipitation and some areas have received more than twice their normal snowfall.

“If it’s a very fast melt, we might lose some of that into off-stream run-off,” said Glenn Friesen, forage specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.

“But at this point on the forage side, we’re pretty happy with the amount of moisture that’s out there. There’s lots of snow cover so we don’t think winterkill should be an issue at this point.”

Producers aren’t particularly worried about frost damage right now either, because the crops are still in dormancy, Friesen said.

High snowfall has raised concerns about spring flooding, particularly in Saskatchewan.

“There are preparations being made with the fear of some potential localized flooding events throughout the eastern sections of the province,” said Kevin France, provincial forage specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture.

Aside from that, conditions are “looking very good” for forage production in 2013, said France, noting most areas have between 1.5 to two times their normal snow pack.

It’s the same story in Alberta.

“Most of the province is sitting at or above normal snowfall amounts,” said Barry Yaremcia, beef and forage specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

“Pincher Creek and Lethbridge are a little bit below normal, but once you get north of Highway 1, the remainder of the province probably has 120 to 150 per cent of normal snowfall accumulations.”

The promising forage outlook may encourage some cattle producers to expand their herds.

“We are hearing stories that there is going to be some herd expansion, but not anywhere near what there was for cow numbers back five to six years ago,” Yaremcia said.

About the author

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Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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