The Canadian Drought Monitor has disclosed that the region, nestled between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, is experiencing an exceptional drought. According to records, it’s a twice-in-a-century event and the most severe rating on the federal agency’s scale.
This development has pushed farmers in Manitoba to sell their cattle in emergency auction. Farmers describe it as “bone dry” and compare their cracked and crunchy soil to the Arizona desert.
Multiple reports have it that about five centimetres of rain in recent weeks caused some seeds to suddenly sprout but each small green seedling gets decimated by clouds of grasshoppers. The situation is so dire; more than a dozen municipalities have declared states of agricultural disaster, reports said.
Speaking to newsmen, Tyson Cook, a third-generation cattle farmer near Moosehorn, said “When you drive around in the field, as you’re in the land, it feels hopeless”.
Usually, Ranchers keep their breeding stock and sell off their calves later in the fall, once they have weaned them and bulked them up for slaughter.
39-year-old Cook already sold off almost half of his 48 heifers intended for breeding at auction earlier this summer.
The young producer, while noting that he has no plans to pack it in, he admitted the financial repercussions are worrisome and won’t be known until next year.
He said “This year when we sell the cattle, there will be [money]. But next year, when it’s time to make next year’s loan payments and you only have half the calf-crop, it won’t work. It won’t pencil out.”
On his part, Tom Klement, who is just one of dozens of beef producers in the province’s drought-stricken Interlake region parting with their livestock because there’s no grass or hay left to feed them, said “It’s heartbreaking, really. This is really a bad year for everybody”.
However, he’s hoping he will have enough fall pasture and hay to keep his remaining herd going through the winter.
“They might end up all going yet,” he said. “There’s just no hay at all. You go out there and you cut and cut and cut.”
According to reports, the recent emergency drought auction was the third held by Ashern Auction Mart since July.
Meanwhile, the Manitoba government’s recently unveiled $62-million aid commitment for livestock producers affected by severe drought conditions.
The program, still in development, will include funding for “feed assistance, feed transportation, cattle transportation and a herd rebuilding program.”