Drought providing challenging times for cattle ranchers in Saskatchewan

Click to play video: 'Drought impacting the cattle industry in Sask.' Drought impacting the cattle industry in Sask.
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Drought conditions across Saskatchewan are impacting more than just farmers and their crops for harvest.

Cattle ranchers are also taking a hit as feed for their cows during grazing is lower compared to years past.

Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association chairman Arnold Balicki said this is the worst he has seen in a while. He can’t recall a time where not just Saskatchewan but all of Western Canada and part of Ontario have experienced drought.

“Saskatchewan and Canada depend on exports,” Balicki said. “We are hearing stories of 40 to 50 per cent loss of cattle herds. If that happens then producers will be affected next year too.”

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Balicki said the heat has decreased the quality of water for the cattle as sloughs and watering holes are drying up at a quick rate. He added grazing may be cut short this year due to lack of feed and stockpiled hay.

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“We’re in desperation, hopelessness,” Balicki said. “The water, quality of water is something producers are dealing with as well.”

Kinistino, Sask., area rancher Bruce Holmquist said the fact the drought is so widespread covering parts of the United States as well means hundreds of ranchers are facing the same trying year.

“Whether they be grain or livestock, they have to find feed for cattle,” Holmquist said.

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The pair said in wide portions of the province the length of crop and feed growth is maybe a couple of inches out of the ground at this moment. And farmers are having to harvest a month or more early.

Ranchers are waiting for help from industry groups and government levels.

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Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau recently announced the drought is also causing problems in western Ontario and in British Columbia, where active wildfires are having significant effects on producers.

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“I can’t begin to imagine the stress that producers are going through. Watching your pastures and crops dry up, wondering how you’re going to get your animals through the winter, and facing the prospect of sending cattle off to auction, animals that are the result of generations of careful genetic selection, hard work and sacrifice.”

The measures announced by Bibeau include early designation of a livestock tax deferral provision for affected regions in all of Western Canada and Ontario. That will allow beef producers who are forced to sell a large amount of their breeding herd to offset the resulting revenue with the cost to replace the herd.

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Bibeau also outlined adjustments to the Agrinsurance program to make drought-damaged crops on the Prairies available for feed.

Holmquist said, while these are trying times, all ranchers and farmers can do is control what they can control and go from there. In some cases, ranchers have been faced with selling their herds.

“The stress on some people at the moment is pretty intense. There is the farm stress helpline to call. Talk it out — everybody is kind of in the same boat.”

Farmers stress line

Sask Ag said the Farmers Stress Line is available 24-hours a day for any needed support at 1-800-677-4442.

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The service is run by Mobile Crisis Services Regina and all calls are confidential.

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