Source: Government of Alberta
“As winter begins, cattle and sheep producers are reassessing their forage needs and sources to ensure that they have adequate feed for the winter-feeding period,” says Neil Blue, provincial crops market analyst with the Alberta government.
Although the early season dry weather helped hay crops to be harvested in good condition, that dry start led to lower than average hay yields. Feeders who realize they are short of forage are trying to secure their winter feed supplies.
“There is some carryover forage supply from the 2022 crop. Depending how that forage has been stored, it still is a feed source with value. It should be purchased and fed with caution, however, because some deterioration has likely occurred.”
Some crop producers silaged some of their annual crops to salvage a crop that was deteriorating from lack of rain. In areas where rainfall was more abundant, there was significant straw produced and baled from this year’s cereal crop harvest. Straw is used as bedding and cows will eat straw, but supplemental concentrate, whether grain, screenings, pellets, or protein meal, will be needed to supplement that straw. Producers will need to consider their ration alternatives to determine the least cost, available feeding combinations.
“For those who need to buy hay or straw, there are a few sources to consider for prices and contacts,” points out Blue.
In no order of priority, here are some of those potential sources. One source is custom hay cutting and baling operators, who may have acquired standing crops or a crop share as part of their business. Some hay truckers are also hay brokers, who either act as a reseller or as an agent for a hay seller. Another source of hay or pellets are the hay processors. A list of hay processors can be found under “Alfalfa” and “Hay” within the latest publication of the “Alberta Agricultural Processing Industry Directory.
Farming the Web, a project of the Alberta Forage Industry Network, lists some forage for sale. The Kijiji website, with a search of “hay” or “straw” may also have forage listings. Facebook also has sites for hay.
For a general price reference, Agriculture Financial Services Corporation lists historic Alberta quarterly hay and straw prices along with other commodity prices on its resources page.
“Farmers are resilient, and despite the discouraging weather conditions this past season, will find the means to deal with this year’s shortage of quality, reasonably priced feed,” says Blue.