Hay shortage in the Prairies due to hot, dry weather

Warm, dry weather in recent weeks has hurt grass crops in the Prairies, according to the Manitoba government. Many farmers in the province have harvested only half to one-third of the hay normally produced at this time.

In 20 years of business, Pierre Mivelaz, owner of a dairy farm in Saint-Adolphe, southern Manitoba, has never seen such a dry summer: “One of my colleagues told me that Normally he has 2500 bales of hay right now, he only has 250 bales.”

If he gets away with just enough hay to feed his animals, it is thanks to the reserves stored last year.

“I sowed it all this spring, the first harvest was really not good,” he says. |And then, I did the second harvest, it was dry, the harvest was three times less than normal.”

According to John McGregor, a representative of the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association, it’s hot and dry weather that is to blame. Lack of precipitation is hampering hay harvesting in much of the Prairies as well as in many areas of the northern United States, including North Dakota.

He estimates that the luckiest farmers will get away with one-third to one-half of their normal harvests.

This is the case of Alain Philippot, who runs a dairy farm in Saint-Claude, western Manitoba.

We are at 40% production in a normal year.

Alain Philippot, farmer

With hay becoming scarce, farmers will be forced to find other sources of food such as corn or wheat to feed their livestock, he says.

Buy at a high price

Buying hay could be very expensive, given the shortage. “In January, February and March, before the drought, the hay which was sold between 5 and 6 cents [the pound], today we speak of 12 cents”, says Pierre Mivelaz.

Producers who do not have enough food to feed their animals “could be forced to sell their calves earlier than expected, to avoid having to feed them,” adds McGregor.

In early July, the province of Manitoba issued a release to dry-season farmers, reminding them that livestock producers have access to programs and services to manage feed shortages.

While farmers are optimistic about turning the tide with warmer weather, Environment Canada’s forecast suggests a scenario that is still hot and dry in the short term.

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