Sask. cattle producers facing feed shortages

Saskatchewan cattle producers are now facing feed issues for their livestock due to the drought the province experienced last summer.

Harold Martens has over 1,000 livestock on his ranch northeast of Swift Current, and is now faced with feed issue brought on by the drought.

"We did sell about eight per cent of our cows," said Martens. "We were just happy that's all we had to reduce our herd by."

In August, he had calculated they would need to sell one-third of their cows due to their feed shortage. Normally he cuts 2,000 acres of upland seeded grass, this summer they only managed to get around 400.

"We knew we weren't gong to have enough feed," said Martens.

In a usual year he irrigates for about 3,000 bales of barley for silage, and this was cut by one third.

September's rain helped them grow some of what they needed, but he was still in short supply. He started to look around the province, and all over.

"Over the years we have been selling stuff privately to people in Saskatchewan and Alberta, so we kind of have an understanding about what it takes to get this done," Martens said. "We started phoning those people, and they led us from one place to the next until we got the feed."

According to the Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association, the feed issue is what many of Saskatchewan's 12,000 cow-calf producers are faced with.

"It's a huge concern to all sectors of the cattle beef production cycle," said Arnold Balicki, chair of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association. "Anytime they run out of feed or can't get feed in a timely manner, those feed lots are going to cut back on buying."

Exacerbating the issue for ranchers is the cold, which Balicki said forces cows to consume more feed.

"The demand for calves are going to back off,” said Balicki. “That will be the second really, really bad year that we have."

The feed shortage issue is worse in Alberta due to its reliance on feed being transported in by railway.

"Talking to CP officials, trains have been delayed by a week from crew shortages from COVID-19 and cold weather,” Chad MacPherson, general manager of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, said. “They are putting extra resources to the issue and hope to have the backlog resolved within a week."

Balicki said introducing the vaccine mandate for truckers at this time will only add to the troubles producers are facing.

"I don't know where this is coming from but it just doesn't make sense," he added.

With calving season nearing, Balicki hopes the feed issues don’t persist.

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