Industry Profile - Tame Hay (Alfalfa & Timothy)

The prevailing climatic conditions of the central and Interlake regions of Manitoba make these areas some of the more productive areas in Canada to produce tame hay. The long, warm summer days, characteristic of the Canadian prairies combined with an appropriate amount of moisture provide an ideal growing environment for tame hay. As a result, Manitoba produces approximately 12 percent of Canada's annual tame hay crop.

The production of high-quality hay has a long history in Manitoba and has become an important part of the Manitoba agricultural industry. Manitoba livestock producers have been using hay since homesteading in the province began. The first recorded production of tame or cultivated hay was in 1908 when 215,000 tons of hay were produced from 119,000 acres. Over the years, the number of acres cultivated and tons produced have risen steadily as the livestock numbers in the province increased. Today, the annual area of tame hay is approximately 1.9 million acres providing a yield of over 3.0 million tons. The ten-year provincial average yield is 1.69 tons per acre.

Hay in Swath 

Most of the Manitoba tame hay crop is used domestically for beef and dairy cattle production with small amounts being used for other ruminant species such as sheep, goats, elk and bison. Some of the annual alfalfa and Timothy hay crops are sold to local pelleting and compacting plants, while the remainder of the crops are sold for export. Manitoba has two processing companies that process alfalfa into pellets and meal. As well, there are three compacting plants in Manitoba that compact either alfalfa or Timothy for export.

Manitoba currently exports high-quality alfalfa and alfalfa-mix bales to the dairy industry in the United States. As well, small quantities of compressed hay have been exported to markets in both the United Kingdom and Japan. Many new markets are being explored as people begin to realize the high-quality hay product Manitoba produces. Manitoba also exports alfalfa pellets and meal to several countries including the United States, Germany and Taiwan.

The quality of Manitoba's tame hay products has been steadily increasing through the combined efforts of Manitoba producers, researchers and Manitoba Agriculture and Food personnel. In fact, their efforts came to fruition in 1999 when a Manitoba producer took home the gold medal in the alfalfa feed competition at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, an event that attracts producers from around the world. Further success was achieved at the most recent World Dairy Expo (October 2000) where a Manitoba producer was named Grand Champion in the First Time Entrant category in the Dairy Hay Competition. Manitoba producers further confirmed their ability to produce high quality hay when the seven other Manitoba entrants all finished in the top 20 of their competitive classes at the 2000 World Dairy Expo. It is evident that Manitoba producers have a growing reputation for producing top quality tame hay and a commitment to meet customer demand domestically and internationally. If you require additional information on Manitoba tame hay, the following are several contacts associated with the industry.