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Provincial hay production below average

As harvest progresses, forage specialists take a look at how this year’s hay production is shaping up

After a season of sporadic weather, forecasters suggest Manitoba’s hay situation isn’t as dire as our neighbours to the west, but still below average.

“We are below average across the province in comparison to previous years,” said John McGregor, extension support with the Manitoba Forage and Grasslands Association (MFGA). “Even in the areas that have an average or above-average crop, the yields are not through the roof. There is going to be some surplus in the central and eastern areas of the province, but it is not going to be a huge surplus.”

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Along with an online survey, McGregor has been collaborating with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development forage specialists and various forage industry personnel to gain insight into this year’s hay situation and price outlooks.

“At this time, and it is still early to nail down exact prices, but generally we are seeing around eight to 10 cents a pound for quality, dairy alfalfa,” said McGregor. “As we move into other areas that don’t rely on alfalfa as much as a feed source, they are running closer to the seven cents a pound.”

Grass alfalfa is currently running around four to six cents a pound, beef hay is sitting at approximately three to five cents a pounds and straw is being sold at $6 to $10 per bale in swath.

“The demand right now is low. Once we get into late September, early October, producers will then have a good idea of how much feed they have on hand and that is when we will start to see the demand pick up, which may affect these prices.”

Manitoba has seen wide variations in hay production this year, mainly due to erratic weather.

“The late-May frost we had did slow some producers down in the northwest area and a portion of the southwest,” said McGregor. “The frost had a fairly dramatic impact on the alfalfa. Some of the producers in that area were only able to get one cut. However, the frost wasn’t hard enough to affect the grasses. But, what did affect the grasses were the dry and cool conditions in the early part of the year.”

Regional outlooks

The southwest region of the province is reporting variable conditions with certain areas having a small surplus, while others are reporting minor shortages.

“In the southwest, producers are indicating that they have taken off a second cut of alfalfa, with some in the area getting ready to do a third cut,” said McGregor.

Survey respondents in the southwest say they have had average yields and will have hay for sale.

In the northwest region, yields are below average, with 60 per cent of survey respondents indicating they will be looking to acquire additional hay this fall.

“The northwest area of the province had dry conditions in the early part of the year and the hay, grass and alfalfa were very slow coming,” said McGregor. “Some in the area are looking to harvest the native hay, which can be hit or miss from year to year, depending on how the moisture conditions progress into fall.”

In central Manitoba, producers in the south portion of the region are reporting above-average yields but have made no indication they will have hay for sale.

“The central area of the province has pretty well finished its second cut. Some of the areas there, towards the north, have had a bit of moisture and that is causing the second cut to be a little bit poor quality,” said McGregor.

The eastern region is reporting a surplus of hay but has noted an issue with quality.

“The first cut in the east was not as good of quality as a lot of producers would have liked but as they’ve got into the second cut and now the third cut, quality looks to have improved, as well as the amount of hay.”

The Interlake region has indicated a shortage of hay with a number of producers looking at greenfeed and silage to help bring yields up.

“Right now we are sitting on a very fine line and are in a situation where we have some good cattle prices out there. We could have some producers who may decide to not pay the price for feed and instead, reduce their herd, because they can get good money for their cows,” said McGregor.

McGregor encourages producers who will be purchasing hay to be diligent about testing feed quality and to also be cognizant of bale weights.

“It is important to know the quality of the hay you are purchasing in order to be able to purchase the minimum amount to meet your requirements,” he said. “Another thing I think that producers need to think about is weighing the hay they are buying. A lot of times hay is sold by the bale and it is an approximate weight or a guess and you want to ensure that you are getting what you pay for.”

MFGA will be continuing its online survey on hay production and pricing into the winter months and encourages producers throughout the province to participate. The survey can be found at, mfga.net.

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.

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