An upcoming pilot project is promising livestock producers some long-awaited answers on predation.
Manitoba’s Livestock and Predation Working Group is about to start a three-year research pilot, which has been in the works for years since the working group formed in 2013.
The province has announced $300,000 to help launch the Livestock Predation Prevention Project, to be administered by the working group.
“That is very positive news for MBP and our producers,” Manitoba Beef Producers president Dianne Riding said.
“We’ve been working very hard to make this materialize.”
MBP will also be pitching in funds to get the pilot up and running, Riding said.
The province, Manitoba Beef Producers, Manitoba Sheep Association, Manitoba Goat Association, Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC), Manitoba Trappers Association and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have all signed on with the working group.
The pilot will have three main prongs, the province has said:
- On-farm risk assessments and consultations to help mitigate predation loss;
- Testing the effectiveness of different prevention and predator removal strategies; and
- Sharing information and research results with producers.
“It’s a very tough file and we want to do it properly,” Riding said. “We want to have the best animal welfare for our livestock, but we also want the best welfare for the wild animals as well. I really like that we have now partnered to try and find a solution.”
Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen announced the funding Feb. 7, during an address to the Manitoba Beef Producers.
“Wildlife predation of commercial livestock is a significant problem for Manitoba producers, with more than 2,000 commercial animals lost each year,” Pedersen said in a later release. “This results in significant economic losses to producers, as well as higher costs to Manitobans through their share of compensation under the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program funded by the federal and provincial governments.”
MASC’s wildlife compensation program has regularly paid out more than $1.8 million a year for predation losses in recent years, the Crown corporation reports.
The program will target high predation risk areas, according to Pedersen.
The Interlake and regions around the Riding Mountain National Park have long been hotbeds for the issue.
Long time coming
Producer groups have long pushed for the pilot project.
Predation has been a consistent leading issue with groups such as MBP and the Manitoba Sheep Association.
In 2018 and 2019, some beef ranchers in the Interlake reported herd losses up to or over 10 per cent, while others complained of herd stress leading to increased abortions and body condition issues.
Producer complaints, likewise, have been often repeated. Producers have argued that business risk management tools in Manitoba need to be revamped. Such ranchers have pointed to the difficulty in proving a loss if the carcass cannot be found or if the carcass is consumed before an adjuster can attend the file.
In 2017, Manitoba Beef Producers released a survey to its members in an effort to collect hard numbers on livestock loss.
In 2018, the Manitoba Beef Producers got federal funding to feed into the Livestock and Predation Working Group and said the first steps towards the pilot project were taking form.
“It takes time to put these proposals together,” Riding said. “It takes time to form these relationships, working groups, and we are now at the point where we are going to move forward. It’s a big story and we’re looking forward to the results that we hope to get from it.”
The Manitoba Beef Producers previously hoped to see the pilot launch last fall, then president Tom Teichroeb said at the time. Failing that, he said in November 2019, he hoped to see definitive action by fall 2020.
“It’s been a long, long advocacy piece and a long initiative that’s finally been approved, so I’m really pleased to see that the province has come out with the announcement,” Teichroeb said, calling the pilot, “a huge win.”
Teichroeb handed over the reins of the Manitoba Beef Producers to Riding earlier this month.
The Manitoba Sheep Association has also welcomed the funding announcement.
“Predation has been an ever-present issue plaguing the Manitoba sheep industry,” chair Morgan Moore said. “Producers have long been aware of our acute vulnerability to predator losses. As such, Manitoba producers have adopted many production standards to mitigate their risk of predation losses.”
Bonded livestock guardian animals and predator-proof fencing — such as nine-strand high-tensile electric fences or page wire — have become regular features of the sheep sector, Moore said, as well as shifting management practices like more strategic lambing periods.
According to provincial data published in the June 2019 Manitoba Sheep Association newsletter, 56 per cent of wildlife compensation paid to sheep producers stem from coyote losses, while wolf losses make up 26 per cent of payments and bear losses rack up 18 per cent of compensation claims.
MASC’s compensation program currently covers up to 90 per cent of the value of a lost animal, assuming there is definitive proof of a wildlife attack. Producers will be paid half of that payment if evidence is inconclusive, but a wildlife loss is probable. Veterinary costs for an injured animal are also covered.