A mid-summer drought and cool spring weather caused headaches for Ontario hay and forage crops. But by the end of the season most areas of the province saw a solid improvement.
This year’s hay and forage yields varied widely across the province said Terry Nuhn, president of the Ontario Forage Council.
Nuhn said hay and forage supplies plunged last year due to wet weather that hampered harvests.
“When we entered this season the cupboards were bare for the old inventory of hay. Nobody had any surplus as in years past,” said Nuhn, who runs a forage additive company.
He said prices were high and demand was strong early in the season, and that was enhanced by a cool, dry spring across most of the province. Nuhn said that first cut yields were generally down at least 10-15%, especially in eastern Ontario near the Quebec border where there was more winter kill and crop stress.
Nuhn said the second cut was “all over the map” with spotty rain across the province as temperatures soared. But he said farms that were able to manage a third and fourth cut did much better.
“It probably got us back to a more normal season for volume. The August rain and September heat has stabilized things. In the last few weeks the amount of hay and forage cut was huge.”
Bruce Johnson, who operates a dairy farm just east of London, said his hay crop was a disappointment. He said a prolonged dry spell cut the size of his hay and forage crop by as much as 30-40 per cent. “The quality is okay, but the quantity just isn’t there,” Johnson said.
Farmer in other areas fared much better.
Dufferin County’s Jon Blydorp, said he had an excellent crop because his area was not hit by the mid-summer drought and managed to get a third cut. “I think we had near record volumes.”
Lambton County beef producer Joe Dickenson said that “By the end of the year we came out fairly well. We had a prolonged drought that really hammered the second cut. Some farms in our area had an incredible third cut and some guys who were more aggressive got a fourth cut and it looked good too.”
Josh Mullin, who farms near Feversham in Grey County, said he had a good year overall with average or above average yields. He said he did not harvest his first cut until late June so his crop did not suffer from cool conditions in early spring. “Those extra couple of weeks of heat really helped the yields.”
Mullin supplies the horse feed market and exports the majority of his crop to the United States where he says demand is quite strong. He said there were no problems shipping across the border because the COVID-19 restrictions did not impact commercial trucking.
“The border was a lot quieter. The traffic was light. We were actually gaining time.”