It wasn’t a great year to be a farmer in Rainy River District, with forage crops being hardest hit.
“Hay probably got on average 60 percent of normal yields,” noted local ag rep Gary Sliworsky, noting low moisture conditions stunted growth in most hay fields.
As a result, local producers with livestock face the tough decision of whether they should ship in more hay—or reduce the size of their herd. Otherwise, they may not have enough feed for their animals to make it through the winter.
And buying hay isn’t going to be cheap.
“A lot of the areas close to us in Minnesota and Manitoba are in the same boat," Sliworsky explained. "It’s supply and demand. Demand’s high, quantity low—price goes up.”
For farmers choosing to sell livestock instead of buying hay, Sliworsky said they can take some solace in the fact that cattle prices have climbed quite a bit from where they were last year.
But either way, the hay shortage is going to put a damper on any farmer who plans to expand his herd.
KimJo Calder, manager at the Emo research station, reported similar results with her forage test plots, getting very low yields.
“The second cut was a little better but not as much as we hoped," she noted. "It was actually a little depressing. There was nothing you could do about the moisture.”
But farmers with lots of grains growing on their property shouldn’t have done too bad this year, with yields of average size or a bit higher. The trick to the good yields, Sliworsky said, was getting the crops in early.
“If you waited until that dry spell, the areas that got seeded didn’t do as well,” he noted.
“The stuff planted earlier yielded high and those planted later were worse,” echoed Calder.
“There was [also] a lot of weed pressure since it was so dry," she added. "It was a really tough year.”
And although this year’s harvest is just in, Sliworsky already had some advice for next year—watch for grasshoppers.
“The conditions were good for them laying eggs,” he said, noting the area, especially the eastern part, had problems with grasshoppers.
“If all of that winters well, they might be back again next year,” he warned.