Original Published on Aug 17, 2022 at 07:21

By Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Farmers Island-wide are cutting healthy and plentiful hay crops this  season. Top-notch conditions will help offset feed costs for livestock  but farmers harvesting to sell have to balance out dramatic increases in  fuel and fertilizer costs. 

“It’s been a great year when it comes  to quantity and quality,” Joel Irving of Vernon River said. He harvests  and sells about 20,000 bales of hay per year mostly to horse owners. 

“When  you pick it up in your hands you can tell, it’s a good crop,” he said,  “But the cost of fertilizer and fuel have gone up.” 

Last year Mr  Irving paid about $600 for a ton of fertilizer. This year he forked out  closer to $1,200 per ton. Not all fields need fertilizer, but fuel costs  are unavoidable. 

In return Mr Irving doesn’t expect the price of hay to increase in line with production costs. 

“You  can’t do that to people,” Mr Irving said. He knows a significant  increase in price would be problematic for horse owners in a tight  economy and a steep price raise simply wouldn’t make sense given the  state of the market.

Ron Maynard is president of the PEI Federation of Agriculture.

“There will most certainly be enough hay to go around this year, there is no shortage,” he said.

Some  farmers are still holding surplus from last year and others are  deciding not to bother mowing a second cut given the volume of quality  hay produced from the first cutting and the high supply vs demand and production costs.

PEI has shipped surplus  hay across the country in previous years. Provinces Canada-wide are  generally well positioned this year to meet if not surpass demand, Mr  Maynard said.

Southwestern Ontario’s hay crops are impacted by  drought and wet weather is hampering harvesting efforts in specific  Manitoba zones but these issues are marginal and likely won’t require  assistance from Maritime provinces, he said.

“The season has been fantastic,” Logan Bryanton of Belmont, in western PEI, said. “Just the right amount of sunshine and rain.”

Mr  Bryanton grows about 350 to 400 acres of alfalfa and regular hay which  he later ferments into silage to feed about 200 milking cows.

“It will offset the input costs for other feed like soybeans,” he explained.

While  the weather has been a bit wetter early in August compared to late  July, Mr Bryanton hasn’t had an issue finding a dry window to harvest.

George Matheson of Albion Cross tells a similar story.

“It has been wonderful,” he said.  

Mr  Matheson grows about 100 acres, sells about half to horse owners and  feeds the rest to his 65 sheep and their lambs as well as a few other  animals on his farm.

“There was lots of rain then nice dry weather at the end of July so we could bale it dry,” he said.

This item reprinted with permission from The Eastern Graphic, Montague, Prince Edward Island