A dry, cool spring has checked pasture growth in Saskatchewan and a hay shortage is looming.
The province’s latest crop report notes topsoil moisture in hay fields and pasture is rated 42 per cent short and 24 per cent very short.
Crop district 7A, in west-central Saskatchewan, has the dubious distinction of being the driest in the province, according to the crop report. In that district, 82 per cent of pasture and hay land is rated as very short on moisture.
But it’s much the same all over. Producers in the southeast and southwest are worried about feed shortages. Some livestock producers in the northwest have let animals graze hayland, as pastures are already overgrazed, the crop report states.
It’s no better to the west, either. Alberta pastures and hay fields are producing “a pittance,” forage specialist Grant Lastiwka recently told Alberta Farmer Express.
The northeast seems to be the one bright spot in Saskatchewan, with most acres having adequate moisture. Even there, just over a third of pasture and hay land is reported to be under moisture stress, along with 15 per cent of seeded acres.
Wildlife lands opening
To help livestock producers cope with curtailed forage growth, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation and the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund are opening more land for grazing and haying.
Last year, the two organizations announced they would allow producers to graze or hay over 350 parcels between them. Grazing and haying wildlife lands are a main management tool for the lands, they said in a release.
How much more land will be grazed or hayed this year will depend on producers’ requests, said Darren Newberry, habitat land co-ordinator for the SWF.
The SWF alone owns about 65,000 acres, he said. Generally, they’ll lease out an entire quarter for grazing; haying leases vary from 30 acres to 120 acres, “depending on the parcel itself.”
Both organizations are also working with the Ministry of Environment and other conservation groups on a new management plans for the wildlife lands. They said they expect to allow more regular grazing and plan to improve fencing and watering sites on the Fund’s parcels.
Newberry said the two groups have been working on the management plan for a while. The SWF, along with other groups, will take over management of the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund parcels, but the Fund will retain ownership of their parcels, he said.
Newberry said they try to work with local landowners and farmers and are always willing to help out if they can.
For more information on potential grazing or haying leases in your area, contact the SWF’s Darren Newberry by email or at 306-692-8812, or Mike Gollop at the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment by email or at 306-933-5767.
— Lisa Guenther is a field editor for Grainews and Country Guide at Livelong, Sask. Follow her at @LtoG on Twitter.