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Cattle seizures called rare

Two recent large cattle seizures by animal protection officers are not indicative of how Saskatchewan producers treat their animals, say industry officials.

Earlier this month, Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan removed 131 animals from a Lampman-area ranch where 16 dead animals were also found. In February, more than 300 head were seized from a Stoughton producer.

APSS executive director Don Ferguson said charges have not yet been laid in either case. He said that could take three to six months because veterinarians, pathologists and other expert witnesses need time to submit reports.

Ferguson said he hoped there were no more situations like these.

“I can honestly say with the weather we’ve had, coupled with the access producers have had to quality feed … as we get close to calving we could see similar situations,” he said.

Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association general manager Chad MacPherson said two years of record dry conditions have made it difficult for some producers to find enough feed.

Six weeks of extremely cold weather didn’t help.

“The combination of these things has resulted in an increased number of reports and founded claims by APSS,” he said.

But cases of neglect are the exception rather than the rule, he said.

Agriculture Minister David Marit said he was watching with concern.

He said changes made to animal protection laws last fall to give veterinarians and APSS more power and to act quickly are working.

“Animal health and welfare is a priority for the ministry,” he said.

Marit said he had spoken to some agrologists who are working with ranchers on nutrition programs for cattle. He encouraged producers to seek help.

“We hope we have the resources out there through the ministry and through other means that if individuals are having concerns about feed issues that they would really communicate with us before they get into these situations,” the minister said.

He added he hadn’t heard any concerns about misinterpretations under the new legislation. One of the producers who had cattle removed said he believed people didn’t understand how extensive grazing works.

MacPherson said extensive feeding such as bale grazing or swath grazing still has to be managed.

Cattle still require wind protection, for example, and feed should be tested to make sure it’s adequate quality. For example, the nutritional value in straw bales can be extremely low.

Snow is acceptable as a water source to a point but not all snow contains enough moisture for cattle and they can expend energy melting it.

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