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This article was published 8/1/2019 (311 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Manitoba Hay Disaster Benefit fund is giving some relief to hay farmers after an especially bad 2018 harvest triggered a payout.
Darren Chapman, a farmer near Virden who serves as chair of the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association, said he harvested only approximately half of his normal crop last year because of late rains and overall drought that plagued much of the province.
“The hay and the pastures needed that May rain to get them going and we didn’t get one until almost June,” he said. “It helped, but the first cut of hay, it was we’ll say half to two-thirds of what we usually get for yields, and second cut was next to nothing.”
The Hay Disaster Benefit pays out money to farmers from the provincial and federal governments when at least 20 per cent of insured farmers report a harvest of less than 50 per cent their normal yield. A press release from Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation says the estimated payout from 2018 will be $3.2 million on approximately 1,000 claims, which will go out soon.
Chapman said the money he receives will be used toward maintenance and fertilizer for next year to try and improve the next crop.
He said a poor hay crop has a ripple effect through much of the agricultural industry. Hay is used to feed many farm animals, like cows and horses, so a bad harvest means it costs more for those producers to feed their herds.
Ryan Boyd, a beef farmer just north of Brandon and finance chair of the MFGA, said he had to cull his herd of 300 cattle by 50 or 60 early last year because it was so expensive to feed them. His farm also switched to feeding straw and pellets because of the prohibitively high cost of hay.
Other farmers had the same idea, however, and also culled their herds early, which made beef prices drop for producers.
“The feed market is very high. It’s as high as I’ve ever seen it in the last 10 or 15 years, and that’s due to hay (being) in short supply province-wide.”
He said he has seen hay prices 20 to 50 per cent higher because of the shortage. Part of the problem is that the grain market has been quite good over the last few years, so there aren’t as many hay farmers to begin with.
Boyd said he was able to offset some of the cost with his pasture land, which didn’t suffer as badly as hay crops. He is able to supplement his cattle’s diet with the pasture and nature grass.
Chapman said he’s concerned about future uncertainty for his business. In past years, there has been too much rain, which also hurts the crop. This is the third time he has received a payout from the benefit in recent years, but 2018 will be the biggest.
“We seem to be dealing with extremes now,” he said, adding that after six years of extreme moisture they now have dry conditions to contend with.
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