Sask. producers attempt to save pastures and crop amid drought

Weeks of hot and dry weather in Saskatchewan have caused the worst drought in decades, and as a result, producers are going to great lengths to salvage what they can.

The Johnstone family never thought they’d be cutting their wheat crop in July. Drought has devastated many of their fields near Coderre, so 80 per cent of the wheat is being harvested green for cattle feed.

“We’re pretty sure we’re going to cut and bale and for us. With the amount of cattle we have, it’s welcome feed,” said Lawrence Johnstone

This field produced about 40 bushels of grain per acre last summer. This year, it would have been about seven had the government not allowed full crop insurance coverage for fields turned to cattle feed.

Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister was at the Johnstone farm Monday to see the impact of the dry conditions. He said he’s not sure how much the additional crop insurance coverage, announced by the province last week, will cost quite yet.

“It’s obviously going to come with a bill attached to it. We’ve reached out to the federal government with the announcement, just to see where they are at with it. They are going to discuss it and let us know, but my cabinet colleagues supported me in this decision we had to make and felt it was very important to support the producers here,” said Minister of Agriculture David Marit.

Last week, the Government of Saskatchewan said it formally requested the federal government designate the entire province as eligible for the Livestock Tax Deferral program to assist producers who may need to liquidate some of their cattle herd due to feed or water shortages.

The Johnstones have a 700 head herd of cattle. Their pastures are just as dry and water is running low. They said cutting their wheat crop for feed will keep the herd going.

“We sold our cull cows, we took them to slaughter a couple of weeks ago before the prices dropped and here they’re dropping every day,” said Lawrence.

In last week’s crop report, the Ministry of Agriculture said the hot, dry conditions have caused crops to be short and thin, and crop yield and quality will be severely impacted without a significant rainfall.

The Ministry of Agriculture also reminded producers the Farm Stress Line is available 24/7 for confidential support, toll free at 1-800-667-4442. Calls are answered by Mobile Crisis Services in Regina.