Prairie hay shortage leaves University looking further afield for animal feed
With about 1,150 hungry mouths to feed over the winter, Doug Bradley has his work cut out for him ensuring there will be food on the table, or more appropriately, feed in the bins.
That feed comes in the form of 1,500-lb. round bales and for Bradley, the University's farm manager, those mouths he has to feed belong to 100 dairy cows, 250 sheep and, when the feed lot is full from November to March, about 800 head of beef cattle. And, like other farming operations that include animals, the University is having to go to extra lengths this year to get what it needs at the end of this second summer of drought.
Traditionally, the University buys feed from local farmers and produces bales from its own farming operations, said Bradley. In fact, "in good years, I usually have people calling me saying 'Can I sell you some hay?'." But not this year.
This year, poor growing conditions have meant a shortage of hay. Bradley said he has been busy trying to arrange for the estimated 1,000 bales the University will need for the year but the task has not been easy.
"We've arranged to bale straw further away from Saskatoon than normal this year and that means the hauling charges start to go up. We're also baling barley to use a green feed from University land and we could have a couple hundred of those once they all come in, so that's good. We're trying to stay on top of it as much as possible but we still don't have everything in place yet."
He hopes to have the hay and straw requirements of the University met by the end of September, but it's not like he can buy just any old bales. Bradley explained that hay destined for the dairy operation has to be tested to ensure proper levels of, for example, protein and fibre. This means a trip out to the site to collect samples and a trip back to the University's labs for analysis before a purchase is made.
"It all starts to add up - the phone bills and the miles on the road … (but) in farming, there's always something."