The Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA) is reminding all producers to plan ahead for the fall and winter feeding periods.

Many hay producers are reporting decreased yields and slow regrowth due to dry conditions.

"It looks like our weather extremes have taken a turn to the drier side of things over the past year in Manitoba as well as Saskatchewan and North Dakota," says Darren Chapman, MFGA Chair and Virden-area producer. "We all need to prepare a plan for the rest of this season and forthcoming winter feeding requirements. This will require some tough decisions, but necessary ones."

John McGregor is MFGA's hay expert and Green Gold Program lead.

"Fall pasture growth often provides additional opportunity for grazing livestock. However, careful management of pastures is essential for the over-wintering of forages and improvement into the next growing season," he said. "The dry summer this year has stunted fall pasture regrowth dramatically and for many producers, feed supplementation will be necessary. "

McGregor says the overall provincial picture leans toward a reduced hay yield heading into fall and winter.

"Most alfalfa growers have completed their second cut of alfalfa and many producers have the first cut of hay just finished or are close to finished...The continued dry conditions have had a drastic effect on both yield and regrowth. Producers across the province are reporting yields in the 40-60 per cent of normal range with very limited re-growth. Without additional moisture many areas won't have the opportunity to take a second cut of hay which will affect hay supplies for the coming fall and winter feeding period."

MFGA Past Chair Dave Koslowsky runs a mixed farming operation near Killarney. He says putting up and testing green feed is one way to bridge the impacts of the dry growing season.

"With all the green feed being put up, there is a need to promote feed testing."

A good source of pressure relief and information for producers is Manitoba Agriculture's Hay Listing Service that helps connect those looking for hay, pasture or alternative feed with those that have supplies available.

"It's much easier to start on planning and actions now than when pastures have run out ," says Chapman. "Don't feel alone, we are producers too and we are here to help and discuss options. Everyone's situations are a little different. It's important that we keep in touch and prepare together so we may carry on our chosen lifestyle we cherish with as little hardship to our herds, fields, business and most of all, family as possible."

MFGA's Top Ten Recommendations: Prepping for Fall and Winter in dry times

1. Start to consider annual crop fields to cut as green feed and to bale straw off
2. Line-up corn fields to take as silage, or having producers drop the stalks so they can be baled
3. Electric fencing on corn fields for grazing the stover
4. Weaning early to reduce feed requirements
5. Reduce need for feed via herd management such as preg-checking cows to determine energy needs
6. Buying feed in advance
7. Feed to real weights. It's important to only feed enough hay to support the true weight of the cows in the herd.
8. Feed the right amount of hay and meet the nutritional needs at different stages of life.
9. Use Supplement and look for alternative feed sources
10. Feed test your feed and balance your rations

Producers wanting to make use of this service can call Manitoba Agriculture toll-free at 1-84-GROW-MB-AG (1-844-769-6224).

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