Ordinarily, Chris Kletke of Kletke Hay and Straw in Brunkild, MB, doesn’t start fielding dairy-customer calls from the Upper Midwest – Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Iowa – until late October or early November. With the drought, however, the phone has already been ringing.

“It’s really been early this year,” says Kletke, who puts up alfalfa in 3 x 3 x 8’ bales on 500 acres and also bales wheat straw on his farm and other area farms. “The dairy guys who ordinarily put up a lot of their own feed know they’re going to be short, so they’re trying to get their supplies lined up now. And people who aren’t ordinarily in the market for hay are in it this year. There’s a snowball effect.”

As on the U.S. side of the border, a precipitation shortfall has cut into production in many parts of the province this year. Kletke figures his own yields are about 60% of normal. “The quality has been pretty good overall, though.”

Growers in western Manitoba, near the border with Saskatchewan, have had more rainfall this growing season. “The yields have been better, but the quality has been lower.”

Currently, alfalfa in Kletke’s area is selling for around $1.20/point of relative feed value at the farm gate. That’s up about a dime per point from that of a year ago for hay going to Wisconsin, he says. “For the hay we were shipping to Texas last year, we were getting quite a bit more.”

Even with the short supply, Kletke isn’t sure prices will continue to ratchet upward in the months ahead. “I’ll tell you next April,” he says. “Hay stocks are tight, but dairy farmers aren’t making any money right now. That could hold prices in line a little.”

To contact Kletke, call 204-746-0462 or email chris@kletke.ca.