As the summer wears on, the precipitation situation varies greatly across the Prairies. Rain has been plentiful in some areas, but other regions are looking at hay yields well below average. Parts of Manitoba are also losing hope for a decent second cut.
The next Alberta crop report won’t be released until July 19. The latest moisture update from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry notes that rain is still needed in areas of the Peace and southern Alberta. There were also areas in the central region with very to extremely low precipitation accumulations relative to normal. Alberta Agriculture rates very low as likely to occur once in 12 to 25 years, and extremely low as once in 25 to 50 years.
Other areas in Alberta have seen high to very high rainfall accumulation this growing season, particularly in the southern corner of the Peace, the west part of central Alberta and the southern foothills. Soil moisture reserves are near normal to very high in these areas.
Meanwhile, areas in the south have soil moisture reserves as very or extremely low compared to normal, with moderately low pockets in central Alberta. The northern Peace also has some very and extremely low soil reserves, and one large area in the northern tip is experiencing a once-in-50-year low for soil moisture.
About seven per cent of Saskatchewan’s hay crop had been cut as of the last crop report, and three per cent baled or silaged. The spring moisture deficit left many swaths significantly smaller than normal. Every region reported below-average hay yields. Provincially, hay quality was rated as one per cent excellent, 47 per cent good, 33 per cent fair and 19 per cent poor. Pasture conditions were rated as three per cent excellent, 38 per cent good, 42 per cent fair, 15 per cent poor and two per cent very poor.
In the southeast, over half the hay was rated good quality, with 33 per cent fair and 15 per cent poor. Pastures had improved, but had a reduced carrying capacity. Producers also reported water quality concerns.
In the southwest, six per cent of hay was rated excellent quality, 41 per cent good, 41 per cent fair and 12 per cent poor. Pasture conditions were rated as seven per cent excellent, 33 per cent good, 44 per cent fair and 16 per cent poor. Producers reported livestock water quality concerns.
Hay quality in east-central Sask was rated as 50 per cent good, 25 per cent fair and 25 per cent poor. Rain had greened up pastures. Pasture conditions were rated as 24 per cent good, 57 per cent fair, 16 per cent poor and three per cent very poor. Producers reported water quality concerns.
Producers in west-central Sask. were also reporting concerns with water quality. Rain had greened up pastures. Pasture conditions were rated as 24 per cent good, 57 per cent fair, 16 per cent poor and three per cent very poor. Hay quality was rated as 50 per cent good, 25 per cent fair and 25 per cent poor.
Pasture conditions improved in the northeast, albeit with reduced carrying capacity. Pasture conditions were rated as one per cent excellent, 60 per cent good, 29 per cent fair, nine per cent poor and one per cent very poor. Hay quality was rated as 83 per cent good and 17 per cent fair.
In the northwest, pastures also had reduced carrying capacity, although they had improved with recent rain. Pasture conditions were rated as six per cent excellent, 36 per cent good, 39 per cent fair, 18 per cent poor and one per cent very poor. Hay quality was rated as 67 per cent good and 33 per cent fair.
Much of Manitoba saw localized rain recently, according to the latest Manitoba Crop Report, but dry conditions persisted in the Interlake and Dauphin/Ste. Rose areas.
In the southwest, recent rainfall has greened up pastures but productivity is below average. First cut yields are below average, but recent rain did boost quantity. Quality will vary because of scattered rain. Alfalfa and sweet clover stands show some promise for average to above average. Grass hay is looking average to below average. Rain is also helping pastures that weren’t overgrazed. Rotational grazing will benefit pastures that received rain.
In the northwest, haying was underway, and yields looked to be 50 per cent of normal. Alfalfa weevil and grasshoppers were taking a bite out of forages. Much of the region desperately needed rain for a second cut and to keep pastures growing. But silage yields were still looking favourable. Many producers had moved cattle herds onto hay fields and annual crops to graze.
First cut hay yields were running 25 to 50 per cent of normal in the central region. Older hay yields with more grass were particularly poorly yielding. Grasshoppers are chewing into forage stands. Pastures were starting to turn brown, with little to no regrowth. Pasture and hay looked a little better in the south-central part of the region. Water supplies were getting low, and water quality suffering. Producers had been selling herds, and would likely continue unless things turn around.
Most districts in eastern Manitoba saw isolated thunderstorms and trace amounts of rain. As producers cut hay, grasshoppers were moving into nearby annual crops, triggering some spraying.
Producers in the Interlake were worried about forage supplies, especially since many have exhausted any surpluses. Grasses had headed prematurely and dried down. Haying operations had sparked fires, which had burnt through standing grass across hay fields. First cut yields were estimated to be less than half of average, and second cut was estimated to be limited to non-existent. Thirty per cent of pastures are rated fair, with the balance rated poor or very poor. Forty per cent of hay fields are rated as fair and 50 per cent rated poor to very poor. All topsoil moisture for hay and pasture is rated short or very short.
Ontario did not release a field crop report last week, but Ministry staff did release a fact sheet outlining forage options for unseeded fields. Producers looking for protein could consider a cereal/pea mix, red clover, annual clover or soybeans. Options for energy or digestible fibre include cereal silage or annual ryegrass. The fact sheet also includes tips for seeding silage corn, grasses, alfalfa, pasture, as well as plants for grazing or bedding. For more information, visit fieldcropnews.com.
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.