Many beef producers in the province are struggling to find enough feed for their cattle this winter, according to the Manitoba Beef Producers.
Ranchers in flood-affected areas, including the areas flooded by the Portage Diversion, the northwest and southwest corners of the province are facing poor-quality forage and feed shortages after a cold, wet summer.
“It’s going to be a tough go for a lot of people,” Heinz Reimer, president of the Manitoba Beef Producers, said in a telephone interview.
The organization issued a statement Sept. 25 renewing its plea for government assistance to help producers acquire and transport forage. The MBP has been in ongoing discussions with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron Kostyshyn.
“We’ve been pushing the province since July 1 or whenever the flood happened,” said Reimer. “Trying to get something done and there seems to be nothing. We haven’t gotten any answers yet.”
In an emailed statement Kostyshyn said the province is monitoring the situation. “The Manitoba government is working closely with the federal government to address the issue and it is my hope that we can find additional solutions to the problem.
“Along with officials from my department, I will study their suggestions closely and I look forward to future consultations with MBP that will hopefully lead to an effective action plan.”
Reimer said there is some surplus in other parts of the province, but even that is limited. Plus trucking the feed in from other areas is costly.
Craig Thomson, vice-president of the agriculture insurance at the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, said harvest production reports are not due until the end of November and anecdotal reports of forage supplies vary.
“Some areas where there was too much moisture (has) obviously poor yields. Some areas where the crops didn’t look so good I think the producers are being surprised at how good the yields are. It’s really all over the map.”
Melinda German, general manager at the MBP, said it’s true there is variation in the feed yields. But she estimates 30 to 60 per cent of producers will be short of feed.
“There are significant pockets where there will be feed shortages,” she said. “Producers in those areas may be short anywhere from 50-60 per cent of what their winter feed needs may be.”
The MBP is asking for a transportation assistance program and a business risk management program including forage insurance. The organization has also requested a livestock tax deferral from the federal government for producers who will be forced to sell their breeding stock because of feed shortages.
Meanwhile ranchers are exploring other options. Some plan to supplement their feed with grain for added protein. Others are eyeing the high cattle prices.
“Producers need to make a decision very shortly whether they’re going to keep cows or they’re going to sell them,” said Reimer.
“We’re still a little bit optimistic but it’s getting pretty late in the year.”