Be cautious when buying in hay, says forage specialist

If you’re running low on forage, chances are you might already be starting to look for hay suppliers outside of your area.

Terry Kowalchuk, forage specialist for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, says you have to be conscious of who you buy from, so that you do not get more than you bargained for.

He says in previous years, most farmers have been able to buy from their neighbours, or neighbours friends — so they know where their hay is coming from.

“In years like this, I think many producers are going to have to go further than (their neighbours).” he says. “So there’s risks of having weeds you don’t have on your farm, or potentially noxious weeds (will) increase with (getting hay from a further) distance from your operation.”

The big thing to look for when buying hay is contamination, he notes. Kowalchuk says weeds to watch for include: absinthe, downy brome, field bindweed, Canada thistle, dandelion, leafy spurge, scentless chamomile, and common tansy.

(You can find a copy of the Invasive Plant Species Identification Guide online).

Kowalchuk says you can manage for these risks when sourcing hay from far away. It’s a good idea to:

  • keep imported hay separate from local-source hay
  • have the delivery truck cleaned thoroughly at the storage site before it departs to prevent weeds from spreading along laneways leading out of your yard
  • monitor the storage site for two to three years for new weed growth and destroy those that emerge with recommended management practices
  • feed known-source local hay in a confined area for four to five days to allow any potential new weed seeds to be passed in a confined area before re-introducing livestock to pasture
  • store manure produced while feeding imported hay separate from manure produced on local feed
  • monitor the manure pile for new weeds
  • clean equipment used in these hay and manure areas prior to moving on to other tasks
  • monitor your pasture for new weeds. The best time may be mid-summer since many plants flower during this period and, therefore, will be more conspicuous. Plan ahead for some touring next summer.

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