Look to winter hay stocks now

With U.S. alfalfa fields recovering from 
extensive winterkill, Manitoba producers 
should expect to see hay flow south this fall

glenn friesen mafri_SV_opt.jpegA provincial forage specialist is urging cattle and dairy producers who plan to buy hay to lock in their winter supplies early or risk losing out to U.S. buyers again this year.

Last year, drought in the American Midwest drew hay south, and a second year of poor production will likely see a repeat this fall, said Glenn Friesen, a forage specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.

“There was quite a bit of winterkill in the major U.S. dairy areas — Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, parts of Illinois, Minnesota — it was widespread,” said Friesen. “We’re a little bit concerned that this could draw a lot of alfalfa out of the Prairies, and primarily the eastern Prairies.”

Many Canadian forage producers now have a handle on the paperwork and transportation logistics it takes to sell hay to American buyers, and won’t be shy to send more loads down south, he added.

“The pump has been primed,” said Friesen.

American hay stocks are at an all-time low, and it will also take time for U.S. fields to recover — possibly two or three years, he said.

It’s not a given prices will soar, but last year many Manitoba producers ran short of hay and had to pay up to 11 cents more per pound. Producers would be wise to figure out their needs for the coming winter and line up their supply, Friesen said.

The department’s latest crop report says haying operations have been delayed by high humidity and heavy, heavy rains in several parts of the province. Alfalfa weevils have also been taking a toll.

“Only 10 to 20 per cent of the first cut is reported as completed. Initial yield estimates of first-cut alfalfa stands range from 80 to 85 per cent of normal across the region due to early-season dryness, frost, alfalfa weevil feeding and excess moisture,” says the report out of the southwest region.

The northwest region is also experiencing delays due to high moisture. Haying is more advanced in other regions but yields are reported as average to below average.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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