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

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Jazz at the Lake begins

The 16 annual event began Friday and runs until Sunday in Sylvan Lake

Photos: Lunchtime tunes on Alexander Way

Final concert of the summer

Clearwater regional firefighters in B.C.

Crew operating west of Prince George

PHOTOS: Samson Cree Nation Pow Wow

The Samson Cree Nation hosted its annual Pow Wow, celebrating youth last weekend

WATCH: Feasting at Red Deer Ribfest this weekend

Ribfest runs until Sunday at Rotary Recreation Park

Street Tales: Life is filled with unlearned lessons

There are days that I almost believe evolutionists in that we are… Continue reading

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

OTTAWA — Canadians are generally supportive of current immigration levels, a survey… Continue reading

Quebec announces plan to compensate taxi drivers after Uber’s arrival

MONTREAL — The Quebec government has outlined how it intends to compensate… Continue reading

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

OTTAWA — The loss of Saudi Arabian resident physicians in Canada’s hospitals… Continue reading

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Death Valley worker has seen highest, lowest temperatures

LAS VEGAS — Thousands of tourists descend on Death Valley each summer… Continue reading

Banff’s Sunshine ski resort upset with proposed guidelines from Parks Canada

BANFF, Alta. — An internationally known ski resort in Banff National Park… Continue reading

Folk singer Ian Tyson cancels show due to ‘serious medical situation’

TORONTO — Canadian folk singer-songwriter Ian Tyson has cancelled his appearance at… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month