Extreme weather conditions hit pastures

Heat waves in parts of the west and excess moisture in the east have left pastures in various states across the country.

In some parts of the southern Prairies, ranchers are keeping a close eye on the grass and on the sky as they hope for some rain to help.

Supplements

Irricana, Alta. rancher Doug Wray says as it stands now, they only have enough grass to get them into mid-September and that is why he is now contemplating supplementing a little bit.

“We’d start feeding a bale a day just to stretch them out, protect the grass a little bit moving forward, rather than just wait until it is all done and then have to full-feed them,” Wray says.

Cedric MacLeod, executive director of the Canadian Forage and Grasslands Association, says a much different situation is playing out in Ontario where they have excess water.

“Ontario has been completely under water all year, so that’s actually not a bad deal for pastures, (but) it is difficult for producers trying to make dry hay,” MacLeod says.

He says producers in the far north of the Prairies are in a similar predicament.

Tough decisions

MacLeod says there could be some tough decisions ahead for some ranchers if conditions in the extremely dry regions don’t improve soon.

“Producers are going to have to make unfortunate decisions on whether to make a cull and sell a few cows or move those cows to areas where they have higher productivity in order to save that production for next year,” MacLeod says.

Plan ahead

MacLeod says it's not too early to start planning ahead for next year and implementation of high performance forage production systems, with rotational grazing and stock grazing plans.

Wray agrees and adds that going with the option to buy feed can be expensive.

“You need to be thinking ahead and preparing, don’t wait for it to be a wreck and then decide what to do,” Wray says.

Bottom line

For this year, MacLeod says there are still feed options available. Grain-growing regions are also impacted by drought, he points out, and will likely have crops not make grade, opening the opportunity for purchase by cattle producers.

Article by: Craig Lester