It’s a once-in-a-lifetime market for forage seed growers

The flip side is that if you’re establishing pastures this year, 
you’ll be in for sticker shock when you see seed prices


The demand for forage seed is high, and reduced acreage means that prices are soaring. If you’re seeding a pasture into forage, you’re going to be paying more for your seed this year.

“The supply is considerably lower. The carry-over is almost non-existent on a lot of the crops,” Forage Seed Canada president Heather Kerschbaumer said at the Alberta Forage Industry Network conference.

Acreage, yields and supplies are all down, and demand is up, she said.

Drought in the American Midwest in recent years pushed up demand for Canadian product, while high cattle prices have done the same for demand on the home front. Meanwhile forage seed acreage has dropped, especially in the Peace Region, said Kerschbaumer, who runs Golden Acres Seeds in Fairview with her family.

“It’s been decreasing for the past number of years, particularly when the price of grains and canola went up,” she said, adding it takes a long time for land put back into forage seed to become productive again.

But it’s a good time to be selling forage seed, especially to American buyers.

“If we’re selling seed into the U.S. and they’re paying $3 a pound, that makes it over $4 a pound Canadian,” said Kerschbaumer, noting that translates to a retail price of $6 Canadian a pound.

“All the prices are relative to what they are (paying) in the U.S. right now.”

All wheatgrasses — especially northern and western wheat — are in extreme short supply while supplies of meadow, smooth brome and hybrid brome are also tight. Timothy is the one crop whose price has come down because the yields and supply are quite good.

“We’ve been in this since 1982 and the prices are the highest we’ve ever seen,” said Kerschbaumer. “When you’re normally paying $35 an acre for your establishment, you’re going to be paying $50 or $60 this year.”

Legumes, including the red, alsike and sweet clover are in short supply and prices are soaring.

Alfalfa prices are also high.

“Supply is so-so, but demand is high,” she said.

Another factor is that genetically engineered alfalfa is not produced in Canada, and that attracts buyers seeking conventional seed that’s free of even trace amounts of the GE variety.

“We’re almost a niche market because of GE alfalfa.”

Because demand and prices are high, many forage seed growers do not want to carry over inventory.

“So far, we’re looking dry,” said Kerschbaumer. “We may be in for another smaller crop, but if we do have rain, prices could be down by 30 to 40 per cent. If we have a good year, and the U.S. has a good year, the prices have nowhere to go but down.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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