Feed Watch: July 1, 2019

A look at forage, pasture and feed conditions across the Prairies and Ontario

While dry weather has dominated the Prairies until recently, Ontario producers have received too much rain and not enough sunshine.

“We’re trying to get some hay off,” said cow-calf producer Tom Cunningham as it rained outside on the Friday before the July long weekend. Cunningham farms north of Wiarton, Ontario, in Bruce County.

Cunningham estimated they were three weeks to a month behind where they should be with haying operations, and figured plant growth was similarly behind.

“We haven’t had enough heat to really make things grow,” he said.

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Field conditions are poor, and they’ve found they’re marking up their fields with equipment, he said. They had started taking the hay as baleage this week, he added. “The hay quantity is there. Whether the quality will be here or not is to be seen.”

Cunningham’s operation is in a two-cut area, but the second cut was in question. Anything cut this week should produce a second cut, he said, but hay fields cut after July 1 will be pushing it for a second cut, he added.

Ontario’s field crop report from June 24 noted that first cut yields are ranging from below average to average across the province. Typically producers complete the first cut in a week, but this year it’s extended over several weeks. Quality is still unknown. Producers were still planting silage corn that week. The June Forage Report notes that grey leaf spot is showing up in older alfalfa stands in the southwest and potato leafhopper has arrived in eastern Ontario alfalfa fields.  Producers can buy and sell hay and straw at ontariohaylistings.ca.

Planting peas and oats as silage is common practice. But Cunningham said a lot of that silage hasn’t been planted yet or has just started growing, leaving him doubtful that it could be counted on this year. Most of the wheat in his area was so poor it was sprayed out, he added. He said there would probably be a straw shortage.

Cunningham didn’t foresee grains such as oats and barley being good quality in his area. He expected most of those crops to come off as silage. Corn is far behind, he said, and would be hard to get off the combine dry this fall.

“They’re still planting corn south of us, which is unheard of in our area. That should all have been planted in April,” he said. Feedlot operators are looking at alternatives to corn such as rye silage, he said.

Still, it wasn’t all bad. The pastures look excellent, he said. “For a beef guy, you can’t ask for better growth.”

Alberta
While spring got off to a dry start, most areas in Alberta received 80 mm or more of precipitation in June, the latest provincial crop report states. But the northern half of the Peace and parts of southern Alberta need more rain. Recent rain benefitted newer hay fields, although it came too late for older forage stands.

In the south, rainfall was spotty, not providing enough moisture to improve dryland crops. Surface soil moisture declined slightly. Pasture growing conditions are rated as 27 per cent poor, 31 per cent fair, 38 per cent good and four per cent excellent. Tame hay is rated as 17 per cent poor, 33 per cent fair, 46 per cent good and four per cent excellent.

Moisture is generally good in central Alberta. Both surface and sub-surface soil reserves have improved. Pasture is reported as 25 per cent poor, 25 per cent fair, 48 per cent good and two per cent excellent. Tame hay is rated as 18 per cent poor, 21 per cent fair and 61 per cent good.

Some tame hay and pastures improved after recent rain in the north-east. Surface and sub-surface soil moisture improved substantially from a week earlier. Pasture is rated as 14 per cent poor, 40 per cent fair, 40 per cent good and six per cent excellent. Tame hay is reported as 17 per cent poor, 48 per cent fair, 32 per cent good and three per cent excellent.

Pasture and tame hay benefitted greatly from moisture and warm weather in the north-west. Sub-surface and surface moisture have improved significantly as well. Pasture is rated as one per cent poor, 22 per cent fair, 68 per cent good and nine per cent excellent. Tame hay had similar ratings.

In the Peace, most areas have received a good amount of rain, but some areas only saw scattered showers. Surface soil moisture has improved, but not at the sub-surface level. Smoke from wildfires is still an issue in the north. Pasture is rated as 13 per cent poor, 47 per cent fair, 36 per cent good and four per cent excellent. Tame hay is rated 10 per cent poor, 49 per cent fair, 38 per cent good and three per cent excellent.

Saskatchewan
Many areas welcomed rainfall, but more is needed to recharge soil moisture and fuel hay, pasture and crop development, the provincial crop report states. Rainfall varied from nil to 114 mm, with the south generally receiving more rain. The rain came too late for first-cut hay in most regions, but should help a second cut. The northwest is also seeing lower hay yields with the first cut, and may or may not get a second cut. Provincially, topsoil moisture on hayland and pasture is rated as three per cent surplus, 73 per cent adequate, 22 per cent short and two per cent very short.

In the southeast, rainfall ranged from 16 mm to 111.5 mm. Rain will help pastures and cereals seeded for feed. Hayland and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as 66 per cent adequate, 31 per cent short and three per cent very short.

Southwestern Saskatchewan saw rainfall ranging from 10 mm to 114 mm. Hayland and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as eight per cent surplus, 76 per cent adequate and 16 per cent short. The recent rain will boost pastures. The report notes producers are seeding cereals for feed.

Rainfall varied in east-central Sask, from 11 mm in the Roblin, Man., area to 89 mm in the Lumsden area. It has benefited pasture greatly, but more is needed to recharge the soil and carry crops to harvest. Some producers are seeding cereals for feed. Hayland and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as three per cent surplus, 75 per cent adequate, 18 per cent short and four per cent very short.

West-central Sask welcomed rain ranging from 13 mm to 91 mm, improving topsoil moisture. Hayland and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as 70 per cent adequate, 28 per cent short and two per cent very short. Producers have seeded cereals as livestock feed.

Rain in northeastern Saskatchewan ranged from 20 mm to 64 mm, boosting topsoil moisture. Hayland and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as two per cent surplus, 84 per cent adequate, 11 per cent short and three per cent very short.

In the northwest, rainfall ranged from ranged from six mm to 56 mm. Hayland and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as 70 per cent adequate and 30 per cent short.

Manitoba
Rainfall was more widespread this week, but wasn’t consistent enough in some areas to alleviate concerns, notes the provincial crop report. Producers anticipating poor yields from summer forage and winter feed shortages have begun selling cattle.

In the southwest, some areas received as much as 45 mm of rainfall. While pastures are growing, rain came too late for pastures to regrow satisfactorily. If rain continues, alfalfa may regrow enough for a decent second cut. Some producers have seeded greenfeed.

In the northwest, rainfall varied from 10 mm to 17 mm. Persistent dry conditions around Westlake and Ste. Rose have drawn down dugouts and depleted pastures. Some dugouts are dry. First cut is behind and looking poor. Producers have sold some cattle. Pastures in other areas are holding out but need more rain. Silage crops improved but also need more moisture.

Parts of central Manitoba saw as much as 41 mm of rain, while other areas saw as little as 10 mm. Newer, fertilized fields in the province’s Green-Gold program are growing well and are starting to flower. But overall hay production is expected to be well below average. Older hay stands with more grass are shorter and thinner, below average for growth. Most pastures have sufficient forage growth, but won’t stand up to heavy grazing without more moisture. There are still a few fields to go into greenfeed.

Rainfall in the east ranged from two to 25 mm. Soil and moisture conditions were considered adequate on 40 per cent of hay and pasture acres, with the balance rated short or very short. Pastures have improved with recent rain. Hay and pasture condition is rated 40 per cent poor, 40 per cent fair and 20 per cent good. First cut is underway and hay yields are reported to be 50 to 60 per cent of normal. Hay fields fertilized with hog manure had average to above average yields. Alfalfa yield is averaging a tonne per acre.

In the Interlake, precipitation ranged from 11 to 18 mm. Topsoil moisture for hay and pasture is rated as 70 per cent short and 30 per cent very short. Producers are expecting forage yields well below normal. Dry conditions have stifled regrowth on grazed pastures. Some producers expect to be short of pasture by mid-July without rain. Poor pasture and lack of feed means some hay was cut early. Pure grass hay is so poor it doesn’t warrant cutting. Seventy per cent of pastures are rated poor to very poor. Fifty per cent of hay fields are rated fair, and the other half are poor to very poor.

Do you have a current photo illustrating the pasture or feed situation in your area that you’d like to share? Send it to [email protected] (subject line: Feed Watch) or tweet it to @LtoG. Be sure to share your name, location and some information about the situation in your region.

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