Hot Summer has Large Impact on Sask Cattle.


Robert Thomas

Hot, windy and dry conditions with very little precipitation through July and August in southern portions of Saskatchewan has impacted area cattle producers when it comes to feed and water for their herds.

The dry late spring and summer weather not only made pasturing cattle more difficult for farmers and ranchers but also impacts winter feed availability said Chad MacPherson, General Manager with the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association.

MacPherson also stated “drought is not an uncommon thing for producers.”

Although May and June had some good rains the lack of precipitation during the summer had ranchers and farmers making economic decisions due to the lack of moisture.

“We had some timely rains at the beginning of June to get the pastures going. This year it was dry in July forward,” MacPherson stated.

“Some producers sold yearlings early due to the feed situation,” he said.

Other producers had problems with dry dugouts or water having elevated sulphate levels, meaning added costs in hauling water to cattle or not using the pasture at all.

“Some producers had to haul water to cattle which is expensive “

The lack of runoff did not properly flush out many dugout plus evaporation made it easier to “transition from fresh to toxic.”

So far this year there has not been a publicly reported incident of cattle dying from drinking toxic water. Many ranchers and farmers took advantage of water testing by Saskatchewan Agriculture and the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency to help ensure water for their livestock was safe.

SEE RELATED – Water Tests Important for Livestock

There was a drop in the size of the overall cattle herd this summer of .8 percent but MacPherson said “the decline is not directly related to the feed situation.”

Producers also made arrangements to ship their herds to northern regions where there are plenty of pastures.

“Some of our directors knew it was dry in the area and moved cattle to northern Saskatchewan earlier this year.”

One Moose Jaw region cattle producer moved several hundred head of cattle to northeastern Manitoba due to the dry conditions but asked his name not be published because “I don’t want to look big and fancy and it’s not a big deal.”

MacPherson stated the weather effect on livestock ranchers and farmers, when it comes to pastures and winter feed stocks, has been cumulative over the past two years.

In 2O17 it was a dry year, precipitation-wise, during the growing season but there was sufficient soil moisture reserves to assist with pasture conditions. The long hard winter of 2017-2018 meant producers had to feed more and longer. Cattle eat more feed during colder temperatures as they burn more calories to stay warm.

The lack of snowfall during the winter and throughout the summer effected pasture plus water quality. It also resulted in tight Winter feed conditions.

Another long and hard winter accompanied by another dry year in 2019 would have a major impact on the province's farmers.

“If this continues into year three we are in a dire situation,” MacPherson stated.

The dry conditions have caused the price of winter feed to spike in the $150 to $200 tonne range; previously it was in the $80-$100 per tonne range.

“Once it gets over one hundred (dollars per tonne) it’s pretty expensive,” he said, adding that after this producers will be forced to make some tough decisions.

One area where ranchers and farmers make adjustments in tight and expensive feed conditions is to cut herd size through culling to keep only the best animals.

One option for farmers and ranchers is to sell off animals under a deferred tax scheme.
Under the scheme, if cattle are sold due to weather conditions taxes don’t have to be paid for one year unless the farmer and rancher buys new livestock during the year after the sale.

“Tax deferral is an ongoing assessment based upon a certain amount of's so you can buy back within the year and don’t have to pay tax.”

It needs to be noted that the Federal government has yet to select areas which will receive tax deferments.

With many crops having taller stands but little grain produced, grain and cattle farmers have been working together to help ease the feed situation and benefit the grain farmer as well.

“For some it’s more profitable to sell standing crop to bale than harvest it,” MacPherson said.

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation has also stepped in to assist with the tight feed supply, allowing grain crops with little grain to be baled for livestock feed.

“Saskatchewan Crop Insurance (SCIC) is also encouraging producers who may be in a claim situation to consider utilizing the crop for feed. Producers who may be in this situation are asked to consult with their local SCIC office to determine if this option is right for them,” Warren Michelson, Moose Jaw North MLA, wrote in response to questions about the situation cattle producers are facing.

There is no feed assistance program from the Province but the Minister has written Ottawa regarding the drought conditions and it’s effects on cattle producers.

“The Minister recently wrote a letter to his Federal counter part, requesting Livestock Tax Deferral. Producer groups have also been asking for this. We won’t know for sure the regions selected for the Livestock Tax Deferral until the Federal Government announces it,” Michelson wrote.

The lack of precipitation has been termed a moderate drought in the Moose Jaw region to a severe drought in some southwest portions of the province by Agriculture Canada.

One thing MacPherson did wish to stress is for producers and others to carry fire fighting kits as hot exhausts and other things not commonly thought of as fire risks could start grass fires.

A similar call is also being issued to hunters with the season fast approaching. MJ Independent will carry a story on this just prior to the start of the hunting season.

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