August for Debra Pretty-Straathof, means seeing cattle on pasture, third cut hay being baled, and the dark green corn producing long, slender cobs of grain. Unfortunately for her and her Eastern Ontario neighbours, the few millimetres of rain this summer has stunted and burned corn, has meant for many only a first cut of hay was ever produced, and November’s hay supply is being fed to cattle today. This is ground zero for the 2012 drought. Disaster is the one word that Pretty-Straathof uses to describe the growing season. “Cows are being shipped, and insurance adjusters have already started the big job of assessing damage.” She isn’t about to hazard a guess in just how much will be lost saying that process is just getting underway. The Renfrew County farm leader says all farmers need to have damage assessed and documented, with hopes that it will result in a speedier delivery of funds through AgriStability, AgriRecovery, and crop insurance. The original founder of the “Hay West” programs, which saw Eastern Canadian farmers load trains for drought stricken farmers in Western Canada, is looking at the idea of the trains heading the other way. “Hay East is one of the ideas being tossed around now by Wyatt McWilliams and a committee of local farmers,” says Pretty-Straathof.
For RealAgriculture.com’s Editor Lyndsey Smith, variability is the big word when you look at Western Canada’s crops. The Winnipeg based journalist says in her province, many farmers are hoping for a few good showers to help with grain fill. The Interlake region is the one spot in Manitoba that is opposite to that, as Smith says they can’t seem to get a moisture break. For livestock producers it means finding hay is challenging, “especially given the drought in the US, and the demand for hay.” She says many farmers are securing their hay supplies for the winter, fearing that there won’t be any left by the time the new year rolls around. Whether or not that happens she says though, time will tell. Driving a few hours west and, “Saskatchewan can’t get a break from the rain.” Smith says storm after storm after storm means some areas never got planted in the first place, and mix it in with the heat the rest is seeing tremendous disease pressure. “Sclerotinia is becoming a real problem for canola growers,” Smith says, “and too much rain mixed with a lot of heat is the biggest reason.” She says that some canola is now being swathed, so a few dry days would be very helpful to get the crop in. In Alberta, Smith says “crops were looking as good as they could, in some cases were monster crops; and then the hail started.” Hail storm after hail storm in Alberta is now posing problems for crops that are too mature to recover. She says if a farmer missed those, they are likely looking at a very good harvest. However for those that didn’t miss it, “fields are reduced to stalks and stems, thanks in many cases to hail the size of golf balls.”
Heading back to some of the most eastern farms in Canada, and crops are looking good. “In Cape Breton, our corn is doing really well,” says farmer Adam Bungay. It is developing early, having tasseled in late July. “It is nice to have a good year like this, after a year like 2011 in which the taps never seemed to shut off.” For the rest of Nova Scotia, the weather has been even better, says Bungay and corn for silage is well ahead of normal for development. He notes that farmers are continuing hay harvest of either second or third cuts, and are seeing good yields that should keep cattle fed through the winter.
What are crop conditions like for you? Post your thoughts in the comment section, and don’t forget to include where you are from.