It's too early to tell if extremely wet weather this spring will impact the amount of high-quality alfalfa flowing out of the Manitoba province to U.S. dairies later this year, says Glenn Friesen, provincial forage specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI).

Precipitation has been as much as 300% above average in parts of the province so far this year, Friesen notes. "The worst of it has been in the western part of the province. A lot of the native pastures on the ranches there are under water. There will be a lot of producers looking to buy beef-quality hay.

"Most of the alfalfa that is sold in the U.S., though, is grown in eastern Manitoba. And there things have been a little better. It's been wetter than normal, but we won't know for awhile whether it's going to affect the ability of growers to export to the U.S."

A big question, Friesen adds, is just how soon the wet spell will come to an end. "Typically, if we get into July and it's still wet, we can pretty much write off the native hay and pastures for the rest of the year. This could drive up local demand for alfalfa this fall."

A continuation of the wet weather could also affect overall quality of the alfalfa crop. "Volume isn't likely to be that much of a problem in the east," he says. "But if the rains keep up, producers are going to find it difficult to get hay put up in a timely fashion."

To contact Friesen, call 204-750-1318 or email glenn.friesen@gov.mb.ca.