Impact of Dry Weather on Forages and Pastures
Producing enough stored forage to feed livestock can be a challenge in dry years. Dry weather during the pasture "summer slump" can quickly force people to prematurely use up their stored forage supplies. Management strategies can help ensure adequate feed going into the winter. These include good alfalfa management, potato leafhopper control, rotational grazing, supplementing pastures with hay, restricting livestock to a sacrifice paddock with full feed, and the use of corn silage and other annuals. The Forage Rainfall Insurance Program is available from Agricorp with an enrolment deadline of May 1.
In Ontario, first-cut yields are largely a function of temperature, whereas second and third-cut yields are more limited by available moisture. One-half to two-thirds of total yield is typically from the first-cut. First-cut yields were quite variable across Ontario in 2012, ranging from 50 to 100 per cent of a typical yield. Yields were determined by rainfall in April and May, winter survival, frost damage, and insect damage. In extremely dry areas, second-cut yields have been reduced by up to 100 per cent. At this time, forage inventories going into the winter feeding period are difficult to predict. Spring carry-over forage inventories were reduced in most parts of the province due to a significantly reduced forage acreage and strong hay markets. As many areas are now receiving rain, pastures may recover and reasonable third-cut yields may be possible. In southern Ontario, corn silage provides an excellent opportunity to supplement forage inventories.
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