Nova Scotia

Making hay while the sun shines not easy for Nova Scotia farmers this soggy summer

Nova Scotia farmers say rain and humidity have resulted in an abundance of hay to be cut, but that same moisture is making it difficult to get dry bales off the field. 

Wet weather that brought high hay yield means fewer dry days for getting bales off the field

This year's wet weather has resulted in an impressive crop of hay. The trouble is getting dry bales off the field. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Nova Scotia farmers say rain and humidity has brought an abundance of hay to be cut, but that same moisture is making it difficult to get dry bales off the field. 

"Most of us have quite a surplus of crop this year with all the moisture that we've been getting," said Tim Marsh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and a dairy farmer in Poplar Grove, Hants County.

"Because of the moisture, we're limited on dry days to make dry hay. It's frustrating when you get sort of three quarters of the weather you need, but not that last little bit to finish drying it."

Marsh said some large producers are processing hay that is not fully dried. He said that involves fermenting hay and turning it into a feed known as silage. 

Sunshine needed 

Paul Meagher makes dry hay bales at his farm in Mabou, Inverness County. He said it typically takes about three straight days of sunny weather to get the job done. 

"Overcast days [are] not good for drying," he said. "You're often cutting on one day, teddering and raking on the next day and then bailing maybe later that day or the next day, ideally. It's been hard to get a few good days of sun."

Meagher said farmers are lucky to get a cut of hay off the fields per season. Just how much hay is collected will depend on the weather over the coming weeks. 

He's hoping to get at least 2,000 square bales and plans to sell them off the field to horse and cattle owners for $3.25 each.

One thing he's noticed this year is just how quickly the fields have grown. 

"The grass just isn't slowing down," he said. "It's just steady growth."

Searching for ways to help

Farmers in Atlantic Canada are looking at ways to help their peers out West who are facing feed shortages due to drought and wildfires. 

Tim Marsh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. (Submitted by Katherine Tuttle)

Marsh said a survey of farmers in Nova Scotia found there are 20,000 extra bales, both large and small, that are available for sale. 

"It's really only a token amount in the grand scheme of things because of our geographic base," Marsh said.

"We're so much smaller than any one of the Prairie provinces, but I know the fact that we're even looking here is greatly appreciated."

Marsh said it would cost about $180 to deliver a round bale to Winnipeg. 

"That's a price point that those producers can't take ... this is where the federal government has a responsibility to maybe cover the transportation costs."

Marsh said the issue is one of food sovereignty, or the ability of Canadians to feed Canadians.

He said if western cattle herds drop, that would likely translate into higher beef prices in about two years' time.