It is no news to beef and forage producers in many parts of Western Canada that it has been a poor, bad, ugly, frustrating hay year.
After what seemed like a dry start to the growing season, it started to rain and it just won’t stop. In talking with my brother-in-law Joe Masi at Kootenay River Ranch in southeastern B.C. for example, it has just been a challenge all through July and August isn’t getting off to a much better start.
Joe had his last 200 acres of good looking grass/alfalfa hay cut and with a couple of nice days it was almost ready last Friday, but not quite. Then it rained Saturday morning. I didn’t ask, but I am sure there were a few choice words used to express his frustration.
And the situation isn’t any better in Alberta says Alberta Agriculture beef and forage specialist Barry Yaremcio. He estimates about 90 per cent of hay producing fields in Alberta have been faced with rain showers at least every two or three days. In some areas farmers can’t even get on the fields.
And it is a similar situation in Saskatchewan says Trevor Lennox, Saskatchewan Agriculture forage specialist in Swift Current. That’s usually a fairly dry part of the world, but not this year. At the Ag in Motion machinery show in Saskatoon earlier in July I spoke to some producers from southern Saskatchewan and they were seeing a month’s worth of rain in one afternoon.
And Pam Iwanchysko, Manitoba Agriculture forage specialist in Dauphin says it has been a miserable hay-producing year there as well. One county north of Dauphin got seven inches of rain last week. Cut hay is laying in standing water. It may not be that extreme in all parts of the province, but it is generally wet.
So it sounds like Western Canada will have lots of poor quality hay. If the weather smartens up in August there is opportunity for a decent second cut but only time will tell.
A couple of tips from these folks…if you have wet spoiled, grey or black looking hay in windrows don’t try to wrap it and make haylage that doesn’t work. You’re just going to produce 1,000 to 1,200 pound units of mould. And if it is not a regular part of your routine, you should definitely consider forage testing any rained on hay that does get bailed just to get some measure of feed quality and see where this stuff fits into a feeding program this winter.
While generally the wet growing season has meant good growing conditions for pasture, that’s not without risks either. There are reports in Alberta and more in Saskatchewan of increased cases of bovine pulmonary emphysema (atypical interstitial pneumonia) with the common name fog fever. It is a condition that can quickly kill cattle. More on that in another post.
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]