Beef industry still struggling

EDMONTON — For Alberta’s beef industry, it’s been one bad break after another.

EDMONTON — For Alberta’s beef industry, it’s been one bad break after another.

Cattle breeder Jill Careless of Busby, says it just can’t continue.

For farmers across northern and central Alberta who raise breeding cows to produce steers for slaughter, skyrocketing hay prices this year are the icing on a bitter cake that’s a decade in the making.

Careless and her husband, James, have auctioned off one-third of the 120 breeding cows on their farm, 50 km northwest of Edmonton, and plan to sell more.

Careless says no other breeders bought their cows, even though they were in their reproductive prime.

She says every one went for slaughter.

Many are radically scaling back their operations, and according to some auction houses, a growing number are selling off their entire herds.

“We’re seeing huge numbers of guys selling down (their herds) because of the cost of feed,” said Gary Jarvis of Triple J Livestock, an auction house in Westlock,. “Some are selling them all.”

This year’s bitterly cold spring, followed by two months of abnormally dry weather, has ravaged the hay crop and tripled the price of bales.

Round bales weighing 1,100 lbs. sold for $115 each at Ardrossan Auction Service on Monday. Auctioneer Peter Pedgerachny said they would have sold for $35 to $40 a bale last year.

But there is some hope on the horizon.

Blair Vold, owner of Vold Jones and Vold Auction in Ponoka, says improved weather in the past has raised hopes that the final hay crop of the year will be a big one.

“Next month is going to tell the tale,” he says.