After three straight years of wet conditions, Manitoba hay growers were hoping for some relief. It hasn’t happened, says Glenn Friesen, provincial forage specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives. As a result, hay supplies are down and prices could stay steady or move a little higher, he predicts.

The western portion of the Canadian province has been hit particularly hard with rain and cool weather.

“Producers are concerned about winter feed supplies, but we’re not talking about any feed shortages yet,” Friesen says.

“We still have half a summer left, so we remain optimistic. We’ve gotten some heat now, and things are starting to catch up. That’s been helpful.”

Higher-quality hay has been harvested in the central and eastern parts of Manitoba and produced average to above-average yields.

Average-quality hay sells for around $85/ton (not including transportation costs), while dairy-quality hay is marketed at twice that price, the forage specialist says.

“Our gut feeling is that prices will be the same or higher. It all depends on the next two months and then what the winter looks like. Prices aren’t going down. It’s only up from here.”

One contributing factor to the high prices is continued demand for Canadian hay by U.S. customers.

Dry years in the U.S. between 2008 and 2012 helped open up Canada’s export market, Friesen says.

“What that has effectively done is raise prices here. Round bales of hay never used to move that easily from Canada to the U.S. And if you’re making round bales, you’re generally not in the export business. But we’ve seen a lot of round bales picked up off farms here and shipped down south.”

The greatest demand for Canadian hay occurs within about 100 miles of the U.S.-Canada border, he notes, although some hay has been exported as far as 200 miles.

Contact Friesen at 204-750-1318 or glenn.friesen@gov.mb.ca.