Farmers across the Prairie provinces in Western Canada and beyond are calling for emergency disaster relief as drought ravages crops and pastures.
Crops have been left in poor condition across wide swaths of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba due to scorching temperatures and little to no rainfall. In some parts of Canada, grasshoppers have infested fields. The development has made several municipalities declare states of agricultural disaster and ranchers say they are running out of hay to feed their cattle.
Speaking on the situation, Kelcy Elford whose ranch is near Moose Jaw Sask said conditions are the driest he’s seen in more than 20 years. He added that much of the crop he planted for grazing didn’t germinate at all and the parched soil is cracking. Watering holes on his land are either going dry or are algae-covered, and some have become so alkaline they’re actually poisonous to cattle.
“When you look over some of the pastures it’s a brown, almost gold colour. Because the grass that did grow here cooked after it grew,”
Elford, who is president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association also revealed that in the areas where it’s quite bad, it almost looks grey. There’s just no moisture there whatsoever.”
This is also the same situation in western Ontario and in B.C., where active wildfires are significantly impacting agricultural producers.
Brady Stadnicki, the spokesman for the national lobby group the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said the situation is so widespread there are concerns it could result in a long-term reduction in the size of the Canadian cattle herd. According to him, CCA is hearing reports from ranchers across the country who say they may have to sell off up to 40 percent of their herds before winter because they know they won’t have enough food for them.
“We’re hearing there’s some hay that isn’t even being sold at a price. It’s going for auction because it’s so valuable.”
Stadnicki added that there’s big implications for the industry.
“That’s a huge priority for us, to maintain that national cow herd.”
The government of Saskatchewan has already announced some drought relief. They will allow grain farmers with crop insurance to write off crops that have been damaged by sun and heat. This means cattle ranchers will be able to go in and salvage what they can for feed. Saskatchewan is also providing more funding for water projects like wells and dugouts.