OMAFRA Forage Seasonal Summary

OMAFRA’s 2017 forage seasonal summary is out.

Forage and grazing specialist Christine O’Reilly writes that according to the 2016 Census of Agriculture, total cropland area increased by 1% since the previous census.

Since 2011, corn silage acres were up nearly 9% across the province. Acres for forage seed production fell by 29%.

Alfalfa and alfalfa mixes dropped 17%, while all other hay and fodder crops fell 18% over those five years.

Combined, Ontario has lost 14% of forage crop acres since 2011.

Dry conditions throughout the province in 2016 resulted in lower than average forage yields for alfalfa, although quality was very good. During the 2017 growing season, alfalfa weevil damaged some fields in the southwest.

Rainfall grows grass, and 2017 was a good year for pasture growth. Overall, southern and northwestern Ontario received average amounts of rainfall, while the rest of the province experienced higher than average precipitation. In September, rust fungus levels infecting grasses were above normal across the province.

In May and June, the first cut of hay was delayed by about two weeks in southwestern Ontario due to higher than average rainfall. Wet field conditions made it challenging to harvest dairy hay. August and September brought average to dry conditions to most of the province, which enabled many farmers to catch up on harvest.

For corn silage, planting dates were variable across the province as wet weather caused delays. An open fall added some of the heat units that were not received in June and July. Harvest began mid-September, and lasted longer than usual because of variable maturity. Some fields experienced frost damage prior to harvest. Overall, quality is variable.