Manitoba livestock sector faces feed shortages

Most of the crops look great on the eastern Prairies.

“Everything’s green,” said one Keystone Agricultural Producers regional farmer-representative as they began summing up local conditions at the end of a province-wide conference call July 30.

“Everything looks good,” said another.

“Things look pretty good,” said yet another, and more comments similar to these followed.

However, that good situation for many crop growers isn’t true for thousands of cattle farmers and other livestock producers coping with the results of years of mixed weather that have left pastures poor and unpromising.

That’s why KAP president Bill Campbell highlighted the problems being suffered by livestock producers at the beginning of the call.

KAP, Manitoba Beef Producers and the Manitoba Forage and Grasslands Association are urging farmers to look at their fields, bins and sheds to see if they have some feed that could help struggling farmers.

“Our hope is that as farmers are about to make harvesting decisions, they will consider how they can support livestock producers who may not have enough feed for their herds,” said Campbell.

After a bad combination of drought periods and floods, much pasture and feed land is producing well below what some livestock producers are going to need. They will be looking for local supplies.

“In recent years Manitoba has experienced consistently inconsistent seasonal and regional production variability through drought conditions, snowstorms and heavy rains,” said MBP president Dianne Riding.

“In the spirit of co-operation, we are encouraging Manitoba farmers to avail themselves of the listing resources and work together to ensure feed and straw is available for cattle producers who need it.”

Listing services within the province help farmers with feed and straw to find producers who need those resources. Various farm organizations will also try to connect buyers and sellers.

Manitoba’s cow herd has suffered in recent decades, struggling to maintain itself after repeated challenges. The BSE lockdown was a big hit, but a general trend of shrinkage continued long afterward.

The provincial Progressive Conservative government targeted rebuilding the cow herd as a key part of its “protein strategy,” but that has had mixed results.

The mixed-up weather of recent years hasn’t helped, nor have COVID-19 interruptions and stresses.

That has Campbell urging farmers to hang tough and to help neighbours if they can.

“2020 has been an immensely challenging year, but we’ve learned that we all must work together when facing difficulty,” said Campbell.

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