Parched crops, pastures suffer severe stress

Below average cereal crop yields are expected, and poor forage crops have livestock producers worried about winter feed

Crop conditions and yields throughout much of the Prairies continue to fail with little chance of a turnaround, says a crop and weather specialist.

“The crops are obviously deteriorating, and we’re getting close to the point where most of those crops are going to be in the reproductive stage, and that basically means that they are under some very severe stress,” said Bruce Burnett of CWB. “The outlook for the entire crop on the Prairies is now sizably below average.”

Precipitation was spotty over much of the Prairies during the weekend.

Burnett said weather predictions have also been hit and miss.

“We also have these forecasts that come along that say next week we’re going to get some good rains, but then when we get to the week there’s no rains,” he said.

However, he said the upcoming weather forecast doesn’t look positive.

“It looks like it’s going to be reasonably dry this week, especially in the southern and western growing areas,” he said.

“What we need is a widespread general rain rather than these scattered showers. I think you probably have to be a bit optimistic to think that is going to happen next week.”

Jim Gole of Innisfail, Alta., who owns and operates a vitamin mineral premix plant, said whatever moisture does arrive will be too late to significantly affect cattle’s nutritional needs.

“We’re almost over the hill as far as getting any quality,” he said. “Our stuff (alfalfa) is short, thin and matured in three days to a week of hot weather. It went from quality to coarse, stemmy, hard to digest and needs more protein. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Gole said there will be a significant shortage of hay this winter, and little to no straw will be made this fall.

“Our crops are so thin and short that we’re not going to get much straw, if any, to spare,” he said. “The rotary combines chew that up.”

A blanket of smoke that has covered a large part of Western Canada did little to impede crop growth, said Burnett.

More than 100 forest fires have been burning in northern Saskatchewan, and one-quarter of those have been out of control.

Northwest winds seem to have followed the more than 5,000 evacuees, sending the hazy cloud of sharp smelling smoke far south.

Burnett said the smoke cover has only provided only a slight relief to growing crops. He estimates it dropped temperatures by two to five degrees, depending on location.

“The smoke did suppress the daytime highs,” he said. “The hot temperatures are one thing, but the lack of moisture is still there.”

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