Cat­tle pro­duc­ers do­ing what they can in wake of hot, dry sum­mer

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Agriculture - BY JAMIE RIEGER SOUTH­ERN AL­BERTA NEWS­PA­PERS

The long-last­ing drought con­di­tions across the south­ern prairies have many cat­tle pro­duc­ers look­ing at their best op­tions as feed sup­plies dwin­dle and colder months ap­proach­ing.

Na­tive grasses in pas­tures have gone dor­mant due to the hot tem­per­a­tures and lack of mois­ture, a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to last Au­gust.

The dif­fer­ences be­tween the drought last year and the one this year have been the lev­els of sub-soil mois­ture last sum­mer and the long, cold win­ter and spring ear­lier this year.

Rick Toney, from Gull Lake, is chair of the Saskatchewan Cat­tle­men's As­so­ci­a­tion and said his area is drier than other re­gions of the province and feed is in short sup­ply for many pro­duc­ers.

"We were lucky last year be­cause there was pre­cip­i­ta­tion in the fall and we had lots of sub-soil mois­ture. This spring was long and cold and it de­pleted the feed sup­plies. Some guys had a lot less feed sup­ply from the drought from last year," said Toney, ad­ding that hay sup­plies are one-third to one­half of nor­mal. "The hay we have here is good, but there is a lack of it."

The long, cold win­ter and spring forced longer feed­ing pe­ri­ods, ex­haust­ing feed sup­plies for many. Cou­ple that with the hot, dry sum­mer that caused the na­tive grasses to go dor­mant early and forced other sources of nour­ish­ment to be found.

"Can we get feed out of the north? Can we take our cat­tle up north? Which would be cheaper? Guys are ask­ing those ques­tions," said Toney.

"Peo­ple with ir­ri­ga­tion might have some hay to sell. Peo­ple are silag­ing and bal­ing up crops for feed and any place where hail hit, they'll be mak­ing feed out of it. The ton­nage is way down for silage. Look­ing at the cobs, I'm not sure what we'll get out of it. There's not a lot there and the height is down, too," he added.

Re­duc­ing the herd size is another op­tion some pro­duc­ers have al­ready been ex­er­cis­ing, start­ing with the selling of year­lings even though they are not yet at their op­ti­mal weight.

"Guys are culling. They're selling their year­lings early. The pounds are down, so it is hit­ting their in­come se­ri­ously and the pounds are down be­cause of the early mar­ket and be­cause of poor grazing," he said.

Toney said that be­cause prices are de­cent, the year­lings have been selling in Saskatchewan.

"It's good there was a bit of an up­swing in the mar­ket," said Toney, who is do­ing some culling at his own op­er­a­tion.

"We're look­ing at all sorts of things. At home here, we are culling heavy. Guys are ask­ing, 'how soon can sale pro­ceeds to the fol­low­ing year.

To qual­ify for the pro­gram, the herd must be re­duced by at least 15 per­cent. If 15-30 per­cent of the herd has been sold, 30 per­cent of the in­come from net sales can be de­ferred. If 30 per­cent or more of the breed­ing herd has been re­duced, 90 per­cent of the in­come from net sales can be de­ferred.

Should there be con­sec­u­tive years of drought or ex­cess mois­ture or flood­ing, pro­duc­ers can de­fer sales to the first year the re­gion is no longer con­sid­ered to be a pre­scribed re­gion.

Saskatchewan has taken the lead in lob­by­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in en­sur­ing the live­stock tax de­fer­ral pro­gram can be de­liv­ered in a timely fash­ion so pro­duc­ers can make nec­es­sary, im­me­di­ate de­ci­sions.

"In Saskatchewan, we've asked for a tax de­fer­ral from our gov­ern­ment and we've sent a re­quest to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, too. (Re­cently) at the Cana­dian Cat­tle­men's AGM, we had rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the do­mes­tic Ag. meet­ing and asked for an in­come de­fer­ral for weather con­di­tions," said Toney. "We want it to be timely and it has to be trig­gered by the pro­ducer. Peo­ple need to know today what their op­tions are, not six months from now."

The pro­posal gar­nered sup­port from cat­tle pro­duc­ers across the coun­try.

"There were reps from ev­ery province at the do­mes­tic Ag. meet­ing and it passed unan­i­mously. The next day at the board meet­ing, it passed there, so the en­tire cat­tle in­dus­try across the coun­try is in favour of it," said Toney.

"Our com­mod­ity can not be stored like grain. You can't just take it off the field and put it in the bin. We have a per­ish­able prod­uct and the tax de­fer­ral helps peo­ple get through the hard times. If you have to sell a big por­tion of your herd and then get taxed, you don't have that money you need to buy back next spring. This is very es­sen­tial for the in­dus­try."

Main­tain­ing a solid cat­tle herd in Canada, one that has the op­por­tu­nity to grow and thrive is im­por­tant not only for the pro­ducer, but for the feed­lots, pack­ers, and other beef in­dus­try busi­nesses.

"In Canada, you want to keep the cow herd where it's at or grow it. We need those calves to keep the feed­lots go­ing. So, we need to keep our cow herds," said Toney. "If the pack­ers can't keep their lines go­ing, peo­ple get laid off. It im­pacts the en­tire chain and it im­pacts the Cana­dian econ­omy. This tax de­fer­ral will keep money with the pro­duc­ers. The drought is a mit­i­gat­ing threat and ev­ery spin-off in­dus­try will be af­fected. "We're a big per­cent­age of the Cana­dian econ­omy. Al­berta is the largest cat­tle pro­ducer and Saskatchewan is sec­ond. This thing has been mush­room­ing."

File photo

Drought has caused is­sues not only for crop farm­ers, but for those with cat­tle.

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