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‘We need inches of rain to recover’: Alberta ranchers and farmers desperate for a downpour

Click to play video: 'We need inches of rain to recover’: Alberta ranchers and farmers desperate for a downpour' We need inches of rain to recover’: Alberta ranchers and farmers desperate for a downpour
WATCH: Alberta's heat wave and lack of rain is killing crops and farmland across parts of the province. The stress on ranchers and farmers desperate for rain is taking its toll. Jill Croteau reports – Aug 15, 2022

Ken Harris, a rancher near Black Diamond, Alta., works hard on his land to yield some measure of success, but knows he can’t rely on it for a living.

“Luckily for us, I have three businesses off the farm and my wife is full-time employed, but if I depended on this as an income you wouldn’t make it at all,” Harris said.

Read more: Sask. heat wave could lead to crops being ready to harvest sooner than expected

Harris and his wife run Cedar Creek Ranch and the lack of rain has been devastating.

“We need inches of rain,” he said Monday.

“I have to choose to take my cattle to auction early and sell them at a loss or a lower price — or pay for more feed and still lose money.”

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The pasture is so parched, Harris said it would take a miracle from mother nature for some of their acres to recover.

Ken Harris, Cedar Creek Ranch owner. Jill Croteau/Global News
Ken Harris’ cattle near Black Diamond. Jill Croteau/Global News

“There is zero moisture, the grass is brown,” Harris said.

“This year we usually get a fairly good rain in June and then you get the first couple weeks of July with some good precipitation. But this year we had almost zero rain.”

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Leroy Newman grows wheat, barley, canola and peas near Blackie, Alta. He said most people don’t understand the risk involved. Newman said most people think rain is an inconvenience ruining their plans, but it’s everything to farmers and ranchers.

Read more: A 20-minute storm with 12 months of consequences: Farmers devastated by crop loss

“It is a lot of stress, but you learn to grow with it: this is farming,” Newman said.

“A lot of people are in hard times right now, mentally, because some of the guys in eastern Alberta are in their third year of drought.”

View from Leroy Newman’s combine. Jill Croteau/Global News

“This year was looking encouraging, but there’s such a deficit of the moisture in the soil we have nothing to rely on for any dry spells.”

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“The crops are hurting. We are probably going to have an average crop but we thought it was going to be a bumper crop because we had 7 inches in June and then it shut right off in July and we got an inch and a half,” Newman said.

He said he’s running the combine off the regular schedule because in these heat waves — there’s a higher risk of sparks from the equipment triggering a fire in the tinder dry fields.

“This year has been a roller coaster of highs and lows.”

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