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Assessing Ontario’s 2018 forage

Assessing Ontario’s 2018 forage

Inclement weather in 2017 left its mark on crops

 
Staff Writer
Farms.com
 
While Ontario producers faced challenging growing conditions, some say they ultimately had average forage yields. 
 
Rains in 2017 forced some farmers to harvest fields while soils were still wet. The rains also reduced root reserves that support winter durability and spring emergence, a Friday OMAFRA field crop report said.
 
Multiple “freeze-thaw cycles occurred between January and April” 2018, and northern Ontario regions encountered “severe winter-kill in alfalfa and grasses,” the report said. 
 
Low-lying regions and heavy-textured soils experienced winter damage, as did fields where producers harvested late in 2017 or applied late-season manure applications. 
 
Given the challenges with the final 2017 harvests, farmers experienced the effects of soil compaction in their 2018 crops. This production issue can cause yields to drop to 6 to 75 per cent in grass stands, research suggests. 
 
And a wet and cool spring delayed forage green-up by roughly two weeks, allowing grasses in mixed stands to develop quicker than alfalfa. 
 
The temperatures turned around in late May, and growing degree days collected hastily May, quickening the development of the alfalfa crop and weevils. 
 
Southwestern Ontario producers achieved good yields in their first cuts. Yields fluctuated across central areas, and fell below average in eastern and northern regions. 
 
Most farmers had second and following cuts that were below average due to dry conditions, pest interference and boron deficiencies. In August, rainfall levels were higher than normal, and farmers harvested another cut of forages late in the season in hopes of boosting feed inventories. Some growers reported their yields to be normal, or above normal, after the rainfall.
 
Overall, ash content in feed analysis reports were high and often increased with subsequent cuts, suggesting soil contamination. 
 
In terms of pasture stands, many producers turned their livestock out to pasture sooner than normal because of limited hay supplies over the winter. 
 
 “Hay supplies were very low last winter in our area,” Stan Brien, a beef farmer in Chatham-Kent, told Farms.com Friday. 
 
But he’s optimistic about inventories heading into this winter. 
 
“I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of extra, but the inventory should have recovered somewhat,” said Brien. “I had trouble trying to find hay (last year). I was short myself. This year, I think there is a lot of good quality hay supplies.” 
 
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