Cattle ranchers are struggling to maintain their livelihoods during the ongoing drought in Manitoba, which the province’s beef industry association calls a “natural disaster.”
Manitoba Beef Producers is currently working with the provincial government and other groups like the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation to find ways to help the struggling agriculture industry, the organization said in a statement Thursday.
“Conditions continue to deteriorate. The pastures are dry and there is really nothing left for the animals to do, ”Manitoba Beef Producers President Tyler Fulton said in an interview Thursday with CBC.
“All of our feed production, there are very few places where there is a prospect of getting feed for the fall and winter months.”
The economic stability of farmers dries up with the pastures, he said.
“Our worst fears come true. We have scenarios where producers are forced to sell the animals – in some cases all of their animals.”
Almost all parts of Manitoba experienced precipitation amounts well below seasonal norms, according to the latest harvest weather report in the province. In some areas, the amount of rain was less than half of normal.
The situation is dire and widespread, says Fulton, covering not only Manitoba but parts of northwestern Ontario and west to British Columbia.
In the short term, farmers are dealing with the crisis by focusing on producing as much food as possible in the province, he said.
Fulton says producers would also be aided by a quick declaration to make producers eligible for the federal Livestock Tax Deferral Program – which allows producers in designated drought-affected areas to defer paying tax on livestock. income from the sale of all or part of their herds.
But in the longer term, an agricultural stimulus package is needed, Fulton said. His organization is working with counterparts in other provinces to work out the details.
It’s important to consider the mental health toll the situation puts on cattle ranchers, Fulton said.
“You can imagine, when they consider being forced to sell their productive capacity – the viability of their farm – it is an extremely stressful time,” he said.
“Knowing that these farms have three or four generations cultivating the same land, it’s an incredible burden to bear.
Breeders uncertain about the future
A longtime breeder in the Interlake area, Dianne Riding fears losing her cows for good.
“This may be the first time in my life that I haven’t had one, and that says a lot … In other difficult times you can always formulate a plan. I’m not sure about that. that the plan should be right now. “
Riding says that from Thursday she started feeding her cattle pellet supplements, which she says is unusual in July. The condition of his pasture is what it should be in late fall, not midsummer.
“As we watch our pastures burn and our hay fields burn, plus the fact that we’ve had grasshoppers – we’ve already taken them across once… and I don’t know what they’re going to eat this round. really has nothing left. “
This year’s drought is nothing new for Riding – it is its fourth consecutive year of lack of moisture to grow crops. She tries to maintain a herd of 125 but has already sold much of her cattle and says more sales are likely.
“It doesn’t sound great. I’m not unique. I have friends who have sold everything and haven’t been in the livestock business for a week or two.”
The drought will have a long-term effect not only on the beef industry, but also on other ranchers, says Riding.
Water problems, job prospects
Irrigation is also not feasible for most farmers. Riding says she has never seen the five canoes on her property completely dry, but adds that she is lucky to have wells between her two properties.
Even they may not be enough, she said.
“My biggest fear is that if I tried to water the pasture, I would bring out my water well. It is a big fear for many people… will the well run dry?”
The longtime farmer says she may have to go back to work in retail, but she prefers not to think that far just yet.
Riding says her town of Woodlands is not currently in a state of emergency and she doesn’t know why. Other municipalities like Saint-Laurent, which borders his property, have declared a state of agricultural emergency.
Riding echoes Fulton’s sentiments about the farmers’ mental health toll and says contact the hotlines, or just talking to someone, can help.
She hopes others can get by and says provincial and federal help is due soon.
“I understand they have protocols, but sometimes it seems like they are dragging their feet.”
Ralph Eichler, who was named the province’s new agriculture minister on Thursday, said the province would act quickly.
“We will build programs to make sure our farmers are there to be supported in the short and long term,” Eichler said at a press conference in the Legislature Thursday.
Farmers can expect the province to meet their needs “in a timely manner,” he said.