Recent History – 2000
Sept. 15, 2000
The snowfall on the first weekend of September did not help Peace farmers at all when Dawson Creek area grain and hay fields were flattened by a dump of two to eight inches of snow.
The two days of rain that followed helped melt the snow, but also added more moisture to fields already wet from frequent rainstorms.
Ranchers trying to bale hay have struggled all summer long. Frank Breault owns 2,000 acres of hay fields scattered around Dawson Creek and has finished harvesting two-thirds of them.
“One third of the hay is low quality because of poor weather,” he said hesitant to predict when he would be finished. “It’s late, but it’s not real, real, late.”
Crops got off to a slow start due to the dry spring. Cooler temperatures and frequent rainstorms have continued to slow plant growth and harvesting. Breault said hay yield could only be insured for pounds, not for the level of quality.
“So we’re stuck with reduced income; the most expensive foul-up is the quality.”
His struggle with the hay harvest has Bill Wilson, owner of Mile “0” Farms near Dawson Creek, harvesting silage for the first time. “It’s something I wanted to do, and this year I managed to get it done,” said Wilson who rented land close to his farm which enabled him to do silage hay.
Silage is the process of harvesting green feed, such as alfalfa hay, clover, oats, barley among others, and storing it in large pits dug in the ground. Doing silage this year has helped Wilson, as some moisture is necessary to harvest it. He said doing silage, as opposed to baling hay, provides a better quality feed, with lower cost and transportation expenses.
Wilson has completed 225 acres in silage, with 150 acres left to finish. The recent snowstorm and continued rain has stopped him from getting onto the fields, the same as every other farmer, but when he does get into the fields he can harvest immediately, as opposed to having to wait for warm weather to dry the hay.
Wilson’s crop was wiped out by golf ball sized hail earlier in the season.
“Now what I’m doing is the return growth,” he said, adding that he is doing some custom baling, which is 80 per cent complete.
He said hay baled during the last two weeks of July is excellent quality. The hay quality has been deteriorating ever since and is now poor quality with fields too wet to finish baling for now.
Breault is 60 and joked that he should look at retiring. He has no animals and his income depends on marketing the hay. He markets round bales wrapped in a white plastic surface wrap, which he said protects the bales and speeds up baling. “I try to make a product attractive and saleable,” he said. Breault ships some Timothy bales to Peace River, Alberta to be used to manufacture fibre for the Taiwan and Korean markets.
As the fields dry, both farmers will be completing their hay crop. With the help of a drying wind, Breault was able to do baling on one field September 6. The moisture in the fields will benefit hay crops next year, ensuring a good start, but this year, a harvest that usually takes a month to complete has taken area farmers three times as long.