OMAFRA REPORT: 2018-19 fall and winter forage conditions

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year!

The staff at the Elora Resource Centre and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs would like to wish you and your family a happy holiday and best wishes for the new year.

2018/2019 fall and winter conditions – Environment Canada stations recorded higher than average rainfall in August and the resulting forage growth prompted many harvests during the fall rest period to increase feed inventories.

Southwestern, central, and eastern Ontario experienced several thaws between January and March.

These reduced or eliminated snow cover and were often followed by cold snaps that caused ice sheeting and heaving in fields.

Northeastern Ontario had more snow that usual. Demand for hay and straw was high across the province due to the long, wet winter.

The percentage of hay fields affected by winterkill ranged from about 50% in the southwest to over 80% in the east.

Large volumes of melting snow coupled with a wet spring resulting in low-lying areas of hay fields drowning in the northeast. Northwestern Ontario reported normal levels of winterkill.

Hay and haylage – Cool, wet early spring weather prevented timely planting or patching to address winterkill. Growers with free-draining fields who managed to patch early with Italian ryegrass had good first cut yields. The overcast weather in May and June meant grasses were not able to photosynthesize enough sugar for rapid growth, so first cut in many fields was mature and low-yielding.

First cut began two weeks later than normal in the southwest, and three weeks later than normal in central and eastern Ontario; dairy farmers in these regions target the Victoria Day weekend to start cutting. Regular rain events delayed or interrupted harvests. Yields were average or below average. In northern Ontario, first cut began about a week later than normal. Yield reports were variable.

Reports from the southwest in June indicated high alfalfa weevil pressure. Insect pressure was high in July across the province. Potato leafhopper was found above threshold in central and eastern Ontario. Armyworm pressure occurred in pastures and hay fields across northern Ontario.

For second and subsequent cuts, yield reports reflected rainfall patterns. Southwestern Ontario generally had regular precipitation and good yields. Central, eastern and northeastern Ontario were drier than average, and yields were below-average. Northwestern Ontario received above-average rainfall, making harvest a challenge.