Cattle ranchers in southern Sask. feeling effects of record-breaking dry July

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Parts of southern Saskatchewan are experiencing a record dry summer. Creating costly challenges for cattle ranchers in the area. Marney Blunt has more.

Cattle ranchers in southern Saskatchewan are facing several challenges as the region is experiencing a record dry month.

In July, both Moose Jaw and Regina received only 0.2 millimetres of precipitation. According to Environment Canada, Moose Jaw’s previous record was 4.6 millimetres set in July 1929. In Regina, it was 1.5 millimetres of rain set back in 1887.

Terry Anthony has been farming and cattle ranching in the Moose Jaw area his entire life but says he has never seen a season this dry.

“Eighty-eight was bad, (but) I think we did get some moisture, but (this year) since seeding we haven’t had enough rain at one point to any more than dampen the ground,” he said.

The dry conditions means bad news for Anthony’s hay crops.

“With the haying part of it, you’re looking at less than half of what we’ve been getting the last few years,” Anthony said. “The last few years the hay crops have been exceptional for the most part. This year we’re probably looking at about half to a third.”

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Pastures are also looking bare.

“The grass isn’t growing, but the cows are still eating it, so they’re baring the pastures off pretty quick,” he said.

With hay crops in rough shape, Anthony is looking at alternate crops to feed his cattle.

“We have some soybeans that we’re possibly going to look at baling. There hopefully will be some straw to supplement the hay a little bit, and there hopefully will be some grain. We have some grain left over so that always helps,” Anthony added.

Others are having to look even farther for feed.

“We’re actually already seeing a little bit of U.S.-sourced product coming into Western Canada,” JGL Commodity Trader Matt Froehlich said. “The corn trade is happening in southern Saskatchewan as we speak. We’re starting to see cattle feeders looking to alternate markets to supply their feed.”

Finding clean water is also a challenge.

“Water is getting to be a bit of an issue in some of the pastures, because when you lose quantity, you usually use quality as well,” Anthony said. “We’ve got some small pastures where we’re hauling water to.”

He said heavy precipitation last fall may be this season’s saving grace.

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“You always take rain, last fall we were cursing it because you couldn’t get your crop off and you couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that, but had we not had it last fall, there would have been very little to go after right there, so it really was a blessing.”