Cattle crisis

Doug Sawyer has seen plenty of ups and downs during his approximately 25 years in the cow-calf business.

Doug Sawyer has seen plenty of ups and downs during his approximately 25 years in the cow-calf business. But the current despair in the industry is unlike anything the Pine Lake-area farmer has experienced.

“I’ve never seen the morale as low as it has been.”

The latest crisis affecting producers is a severe shortage of hay and grass that followed the cold, dry spring.

Sawyer, a director with Alberta Beef Producers and the organization’s finance chair, said he’s heard about hay in Southern Alberta selling for $160 to $180 a ton — or about $100 a bale.

“That’s about double what we should be dealing with.”

Harry Brook, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Ag-Info Centre in Stettler, confirmed that hay yields are down and prices up — with drastic consequences.

“A lot of guys are either dispersing their herds or doing some very severe cuts to the cow numbers, because they just don’t have the feed,” he said.

In many cases, added Sawyer, producers are downsizing their breeding stock. And that’s a bad trend in a province known for the quality of its beef.

“In Alberta, we have some of the best genetics in our commercial herd as well as our purebred herd that you’ll find anywhere in the world,” he pointed out. “We’re removing those genetics.”

The beef industry is suffering from other problems, he added, such as the high Canadian dollar.

“There are just so many factors that seem to be working against us right now, in the cow-calf industry in particular.”

Sawyer has been disappointed with the help his industry has received.

For instance, the current feed shortage might have been reduced had drought-damaged crops been promptly written off this spring. That would have allowed them to be harvested as greenfeed and alternatives seeded in their place.

Unfortunately, farmers with insurance had to leave their crops standing until June 20 and then wait for an adjustor.

One east-Central Alberta farmer that Sawyer knows sat waiting with his air drill filled with oats.

“He’s now cleaning it out and putting it away. He never did get it done and it’s way too late now.

“We missed a huge opportunity to reseed literally thousands of acres that could have gone into greenfeed or a feed source that would have really benefited our industry huge.”

The feed value of crops that had to wait to be written off also diminished with the passage of time, said Sawyer.

Farmers with insured hay were also prevented from turning livestock into their parched fields until June 20, he said. Some chose not to wait.

“They had no option but to go ahead and forgive their hay coverage because they had to put cows on feed.”

Sawyer said he is also frustrated by insurance restrictions that prevent producers from grazing haylands more than two consecutive years.

“I fail to understand that thinking, because whether you mechanically harvest it with a hay bind and tractor or whether you harvest it with cattle, as long as it’s done properly. . . . .

“That’s just punishing producers that have no option but to turn cattle in on it.”

The federal-provincial AgriStability program has also failed to help many cow-calf producers, said Sawyer. That’s because they’re working with shrinking margins and consequently eligible for less coverage under the program.

“We’ve been a low-margin area for the last few years, since BSE. We’ve just got no room left.”

The Advocate was unable to obtain comment from Agriculture Financial Services Corporation, which administers crop insurance and AgriStability programs.

Just Posted

Red Deer church donates to Safe Harbour

It was all about helping those in need at Safe Harbour in… Continue reading

Former firefighter with PTSD sues Syncrude over suspended benefits, dismissal

CALGARY — A lawsuit filed by a former firefighter and paramedic against… Continue reading

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

HALIFAX — Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi may have hoped to quietly disappear from… Continue reading

Democrats aren’t buying Trump’s shutdown-ending ‘compromise’

WASHINGTON — In a bid to break the shutdown stalemate, President Donald… Continue reading

Updated: Red Deer welcomes 2019 Canada Winter Games Team Alberta

About 250 Alberta athletes are participating in the Games

Students seen mocking Native Americans could face expulsion

One 11-minute video of the confrontation shows the Haka dance and students loudly chanting

Curtain rising Sunday night on total lunar eclipse

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The celestial curtain will be rising soon on… Continue reading

At 30-day mark, shutdown logjam remains over border funding

WASHINGTON — Thirty days into the partial government shutdown, Democrats and Republicans… Continue reading

Holocaust victims buried after remains found in UK museum

LONDON — The remains of six unidentified Holocaust victims were buried in… Continue reading

Giuliani: ‘So what’ if Trump and Cohen discussed testimony

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani left open Sunday the… Continue reading

Photos: Rocks fly at 37th Annual Oilmen’s Bonspiel

Twenty-nine teams gathered at the Pidherney Curling Centre in Red Deer for… Continue reading

Death toll reaches 79 in Mexico fuel pipeline fire horror

TLAHUELILPAN, Mexico — People in the town where a gasoline explosion killed… Continue reading

With Trump out, Davos chief eyes fixing world architecture

DAVOS, Switzerland — The founder of the World Economic Forum says U.S.… Continue reading

Mexican pipeline explosion kills 71, leaves nightmare of ash

TLAHUELILPAN, Mexico — Gerardo Perez returned Saturday to the scorched field in… Continue reading

Most Read