In this edition - May 12, 2017
With rain across much of the country resulting in flooding in many regions, weather experts are also looking at long-term forecasts to the summer ahead.
And farmers are hoping many predictions made in a recent national weather forecast are wrong, because if they're right, it could be a tough growing season.
The AccuWeather Global Weather forecast of May 3 calls for everything from high temperatures and little rainfall on the western and central Prairies – extending all the way north into the Territories - to cool, rainy conditions in much of Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
It's soup to nuts, a variable mixed bag, a hot-to-cold sweep from west to east.
For example, the forecast includes warnings about more wildfire potential in Alberta due to very hot and dry weather.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, thunderstorms and severe weather are predicted around the Great Lakes.
And finally, unseasonably cool yet humid temperatures are forecast for Canada's east coast, owing to below-normal sea-surface temperatures and a greater number of days with fog.
Who's looking good? AccuWeather says areas close to the Pacific coast are forecast to have temperatures closer to normal. And predictions call for eastern Manitoba and much of Ontario to be warm, but not hot.
Good for forages
"Warm's better than cool," says Cedric MacLeod, executive director of the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association. "But we need rain to back it up. The major driver for forages is water."
MacLeod says most of the Prairies had a wet fall and went into the winter with reasonable moisture reserves. That's good for seeding – as long a there's not too much water. But those reserves will get used up quickly if hot, dry weather persists.
And that can have long-term ramifications. For example, the 2012 drought resulted in a dramatic drop in feed production. Beef producers flooded the North America market with animals, causing shortages later and a spike in consumer prices from 2014 to 2016.
More tools available
Dale Cowan, senior agronomist with AGRIS and Wanstead Co-ops in southwestern Ontario, says weather forecasters have more tools than ever available to make the most accurate predictions possible.
So he's urging farmers to take forecasters' warnings seriously and manage appropriately.
For example, soils with good structure and drainage help maintain productivity during wet conditions. And during damp growing seasons, producers need to be extra diligent scouting for problems, such as root rot and fungal disease.
Overwintered cereal crops can be used to feed livestock, but there are risks, a joint Saskatchewan-Alberta report warns.
Approximately 2.3 million acres of 2016's crop went unharvested in both provinces combined.
The report,was co-author by Barry Yaremcio, Alberta Agriculture's beef and forage specialist. He advises against using 100 per cent of spring harvested grains to feed chickens, pigs, sheep, cattle or other species.
"Include it at roughly 20-25 per cent of the total ration and blend it off with other feeds that are better quality and better condition," Yaremcio says.
Several options exist for farmers when incorporating overwintered cereal crops: swath grazing, feeding spring threshed crop and baling.
"There are uses and risks to each option," says co-author Murray Feist, Saskatchewan Agriculture's ruminant nutritionist, who says he doesn't favour one option over the others. "Each operation is different in the choices available to them."
Wintered crops become weather damaged and their protein and energy contents drop, as well as their digestibility, the report says.
Digestibility could be 10 per cent lower in greenfeed or swath grazing, further reducing the suitability of unthreshed crops or spring threshed grain as a major component or sole ingredient in a ration.
"Feed tests for nutrient content are very important," Yaremcio says. "Consult with nutritionists and a veterinarian if you're not sure, or problems start appearing."
Spring-threshed crops are at risk of contamination from ergot, fusarium, moulds, dirt and fecal matter.
Microbial levels that existed in the fall will be present in the crop going into spring.
Mycotoxins can be found in cereals as well as corn, and pigs, chickens and dairy cattle are most susceptible, Yaremcio notes.
Weather conditions last fall heightened mycotoxin risks, giving greater importance to screen testing spring-threshed crops for mycotoxins.
"Testing for mould types and concentration provides little; you must do mycotoxin testing," Yaremcio says.
Baling for use as greenfeed next fall and winter is perhaps the most common option selected by farmers, Yaremcio says.
The crop material, however, must be dry before baling.
Bales containing moisture content above 16 to 18 per cent may potentially heat and lose quality and energy content, as well as develop mould.
Raking or inverting overwintered crop windrows helps with the drying process to produce more uniform moisture content.
"You need to use kid gloves when you try to bale up and use greenfeed for spring salvaging," says Yaremcio.
StatsCan's grain stocks report showed canola, soybean and oat supplies lower compared to 2016. Meanwhile, total stocks of wheat, corn and barley were up.
Horst Bohner estimates there are only several hundred acres of soybeans planted in Ontario and he’s OK with that.
The Canadian edition of the SIAL food show in Toronto, Ont. was an opportunity for some of the nation's farmers to show case their value-added products.
Off-grid solar operated water systems are coming down the pipe for a growing number of cattle producers. It’s a win-win on several fronts, say experts.
The Western Producer