Feed costs high as beef pro­duc­ers strug­gle with poor crops, lack of sup­ply

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Farm News - BY COLLIN GALLANT— South­ern Al­berta News­pa­pers

The cost of gro­ceries is go­ing up for cat­tle ranch­ers and horse own­ers in south­east­ern Al­berta at the end of a sec­ond straight sum­mer of stressed pas­tures and drought stricken hay­land.

“From where it was (in 2016), I’m pay­ing dou­ble,” said Mor­ley Forsyth, who op­er­ates the Forsyth Ranch eques­trian arena near Medicine Hat af­ter pass­ing his cat­tle op­er­a­tion in south­west Saskatchewan over to his son.

“It’s a tough thing right now be­cause it is re­ally high. Around Medicine Hat, you can’t buy any­thing for less than $200 (per ton for high qual­ity hay).”

A quick sur­vey of Al­berta Agri­cul­ture’s for­age listings — where in­di­vid­u­als can make buy or sell ar­range­ments for hay straw or pas­ture — shows few calls out from south­ern ad­dresses look­ing to market ex­cess.

Un­der for-sale cat­e­gories, some cen­tral Al­berta pro­duc­ers of­fer 1,800-pound bales for $180, OBO, but that doesn’t in­clude truck­ing costs.

“In gen­eral, hay prices are very high,” of­fi­cials with the Al­berta Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Cor­po­ra­tion told the News Mon­day, cit­ing dry, hot grow­ing con­di­tions in south­ern that nixed sec­ond cuts on non­ir­ri­gated land push­ing prices higher.

Farm in­puts sur­vey states an av­er­age prov­ince-wide price for hay with more than half al­falfa at the farm gate is about $153 per ton in Septem­ber. That’s up from $118 at the same time last year, mark­ing a 30 per cent in­crease.

Cur­rent prices for feed bar­ley ($4.33 per bushel) and feed oats ($2.68), are also about 10 to 15 per cent higher than last year, while feed wheat was even.

“There’s gen­er­ally been low (hay) pro­duc­tion this year in south­ern and cen­tral Al­berta, and strong de­mand glob­ally for beef, so prices are high,” ac­cord­ing to AFSC an­a­lysts.

“We’re see­ing some hay trucks headed south and higher prices in north­ern Al­berta as a re­sult of low mois­ture con­di­tions.

“Straw prices are quite high as well and there’s more of it be­ing baled this year than nor­mal be­cause of that.”

The most re­cent Al­berta Crop re­port states the ad­vanc­ing har­vest is tak­ing some im­me­di­ate pres­sure off cat­tle pro­duc­ers as they are turn­ing pas­ture into stub­ble fields. As in 2017, the hay market land­scape de­pends on the amount of stunted crop that is used as green feed. That and in­creas­ing ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with straw as a sta­ple sup­ple­ment could help off­set some costs for cat­tle pro­duc­ers, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral pro­ducer groups.

Crop progress

Warmer weather in mid-Oc­to­ber has helped restart har­vest across Al­berta, and brought it to a near con­clu­sion in the south.

In the re­gion, 85 per cent of ma­jor crops are com­bined and seven per cent are in the swath, with only canola trail­ing be­hind at about the three-quar­ter com­pleted mark. Bar­ley, oats and spring wheat all sit above the 80 per cent mark, up notably from the pre­vi­ous week, but will be be­hind the 2016 av­er­age.

Har­vest­ing of peas and pota­toes is vir­tu­ally com­plete in the south­east, with two-thirds of su­gar beet and dry bean acres com­plete with few grade con­cerns thus far.

Fall seeded crops are rated at 32 per cent fair and 65 per cent good or bet­ter.

Sur­face soil mois­ture re­mained steady across the south with an even split be­tween fair and good rat­ings.

Sub-sur­face soil mois­ture is con­sid­ered poor for one-quar­ter of arable land, half fair and the re­main­ing quar­ter good.

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