A long cold winter has eaten away at hay supplies and is putting the squeeze on cattle producers, particularly those in drier areas of southern and central Saskatchewan.
“I get lots of calls from people looking for hay, but it’s a scarce commodity,” said Travis Peardon, a livestock and feed extension specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture in Outlook, about an hour south of Saskatoon. “I don’t know if anyone has extra hay that they are willing to part with.”
The final 2017 provincial crop report estimated dry land hay yields at only 1.1 tons per acre for alfalfa, compared to 1.6 tons in the previous year.
“It would have put people in a really close situation of getting through the winter, said Rick Toney, chair of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association. “Now, it’s a prolonged winter and there are people looking to buy hay”
Temperatures were 8 to 10 degrees below normal during the first half of April.
Cows with young calves need additional feed to meet their energy requirements. Feed barley is usually the go-to grain that supplements a ration containing straw.
Peardon says there doesn’t seem to be much feed barley around and producers can wait two to three week to get pellets from feed mills.
“It’s kind of a scramble out there to find enough feed if people don’t have a large carryover from previous years.”
Last week’s snow is a catch 22—it’s a reminder of winter, but the moisture is needed in southern and central regions to replenish dugouts and help pastures.
The plan now is to stretch feed supplies until the pastures are ready for grazing several weeks down the road.
“Any time you are looking at an early turn out of cows, you definitely risk hurting grass production for the year.”