Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wet harvest adds to cattle farmers' woes

Wet harvest adds to cattle farmers' woesCattle farmers are already losing money on every animal they sell.(CBC)

Cattle producers across the Maritimes say this summer's wet weather has created a feed shortage, and they are looking for help from government and from each other.

Beef farmers, already beaten down over the past few years by prices driven below the cost of production and by a lengthy disruption of exports to the United States due to fears of bovine spongiform encephalopathy — mad cow disease — are worried about what they will feed their cattle this winter.

The wet summer has taken a toll on hay, silage and some grains.

What feed can be found is likely to be expensive, Cameron MacDonald, chairman of the P.E.I. Cattlemen's Association Producers, told CBC News Tuesday. With farmers losing money on every animal they sell, MacDonald believes many may end up slaughtering animals instead feeding them through the winter, unless they get some government help.

"If there's some money coming, maybe people will hold on to their livestock and try to buy feed for them," he said.

"But if there's no money coming, they're going to have to make a decision."

MacDonald's group has started looking for unused or stockpiled feed that may otherwise go to waste, in an effort to boost supply.

"There's been a lot of people gone out of the cattle business over the last couple of years, and there is feed still on those farms, just sitting," he said.

"How far it would go, I don't know."

The federal election could get cattle producers some attention, MacDonald hopes, but he is also aware it could mean nothing will happen until after the Oct. 14 vote.

The U.S. reopened its borders to young Canadian cattle in March 2005.