Prairie farmers expected to replenish feed supply

Good forage crops across Western Canada will help farmers replenish their supplies after a long winter led to very low carryover stocks, crop specialists said.

Ken Ziegler, forage specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development at Rocky Mountain House, said most areas across the province are moving onto to second or third cuts and reporting good yields.

“The southern part of Alberta, where it’s warm and under irrigation, will be working on the regrowth on the second cut, and is getting ready for the third cut anytime,” he said. “The main part of the province has had the first cut done and the second is a couple weeks away.”

“Yields are as good as any other year, if not better,” he added.

Due to the extended winter across the Prairies, farmers used more feed than they usually would, leading to low carryover stocks, Ziegler said.

“Winter was a little tougher, so they went through feed a little more than usual,” he said. “Generally there was virtually not very much carryover, but with this being a reasonably good yield year, people are replenishing their stocks.”

The story is similar for growers in Saskatchewan, said Daphne Cruise, regional crops specialist with Saskatchewan’s ag ministry in Moose Jaw.

“Last winter, because it was so long, most of our cattle producers just made it through with just enough feed,” she said. “I think for this year, there weren’t much carryover stocks, so a lot of people are looking to get through the winter again.”

While yields haven’t been as strong as last season, she added, they are still on par with the five-year averages.

“Yields compared to last year are a bit lower, but when we look at five- or six-year averages, we’re right on par,” she said. “For the most part, it sounds like quality is between good and fair.”

“As far as cuts, there’s only been one for most of the province,” Cruise added.

As for Manitoba, the second cut of alfalfa is about 75 to 85 per cent complete in the southwest region, and hay is now getting a second cut across most of the province, according to Manitoba Agriculture, Food, and Rural Initiatives’ weekly crop report.

However, the story is much different as you move further north. Pamela Iwanchysko, farm production specialist for MAFRI in Dauphin, said yields have been good for the northern part of the province, but quality is lacking because of the delayed harvest.

“Around here, guys are finishing up their first cut, because it was such a late start,” she said. “Yields are average to above average from what I’ve been told, but quality is probably down because of the high fibre content due to the late harvest.”

Even with quality issues, Iwanchysko said this season’s forage crops have been much better than last year’s.

“Supplies are way better than last year,” she said. “I think guys are just starting to take an inventory of what they got, and for the most part, I think it’s adequate to just below average.”

Iwanchysko said there were virtually no carryover stocks due to the extremely long winter.

— Brandon Logan writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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