Cattle flood into auction yards early amid drought conditions in Manitoba

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It continues to be tough for ranchers as they try to feed their cattle amid tinder dry conditions. Global News reporter Marney Blunt explains how this is impacting livestock auctions – Aug 6, 2021

Scott Anderson has been running Winnipeg Livestock Sales Ltd. for about three decades, but he’s never seen the auction yards so busy in the middle of the summer.

On Friday, more than 1,500 head of cattle came through the gates at the auction yard.

“That is multiple times more than what we typically see. Typically it would be 150 to 200,” Anderson said.

“This is probably the first time we’ve had numbers remotely close to this in the middle of summer. Typically this rush wouldn’t start until mid-September or October.”

The extreme drought conditions across much of Manitoba are to blame, burning grass off pastures and hurting hay crops. Grasshoppers are also an issue.

“The Interlake is stricken with drought. No rain, the grass is burned off, very short on feed, even the dugouts are drying up,” Anderson told Global News.

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“Guys have been hauling water to keep the animals watered and (you) can only do that for so long before you kind of got to whittle your numbers down so you can feed them properly over the course of the winter.”

Read more: Manitoba, federal governments scramble to roll out support for agriculture producers amid drought

Anderson says they’ve been seeing an influx of cattle being auctioned off for the past two months now.

Livestock buyer Jeff McSherry says many are unable to source or afford feed, and it’s pushing some out of the industry altogether.

“There’s just no feed source left for the cattle so they have to move them, the pastures are done and there’s just no feed around to buy,” McSherry said.

“And the feed that is around is very expensive and a lot of people just aren’t setup to buy feed, so they’re forced to sell their cattle and a lot of people are going to leave the industry because they don’t have the sources to make it work.”

McSherry says a lot of the feeder cattle are being shipped off elsewhere in the country.

“In Ontario, they have a bumper crop so a lot of the feeder cattle are going into the far east in Ontario right now,” he said. “And Alberta, with some irrigation in the Lethbridge area, they have some pretty good crops out there so a lot of cattle are going out that way.”

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Read more: Manitoba suffering driest July on record

Anderson says many ranchers are looking for more details and support from the government.

“I know there’s a lot of people here today that are anxious to see what kind of government support there might be as far as a feed subsidy or some kind of payment or any kind of assistance to help them feed their cattle,” Anderson said.

“I know it’s been weighing heavily on a lot of producers’ minds, just what might be available before they make decisions and sell off their whole herd before there is something announced. They’re in a tough spot.”

McSherry adds additional funding may not go a long way if there’s minimal feed to buy.

“I don’t know if you could find any feed if there was any (funding) out there anyway.”

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