The Manitoba Beef Producers membership is getting fed up with a growing predation problem in parts of the province.
Manitoba Beef Producers members heartily adopted all six resolutions on predation put forward this year at the AGM, Feb. 8-9 in Brandon, most aimed at prompting provincial action.
Predation has been a long-standing issue between the producer group and the province, although the MBP executive has recently expressed some optimism about their relationship with Manitoba Sustainable Development.
“Show me another individual where you could say, ‘I’m going to take 20 per cent of your livelihood out of your paycheque every week,’ because that’s what predation is doing to some of these guys and the losses are significant,” Brian Lemon, MBP general manager said.
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Glen Metner, representative for District 11 west of Lake Manitoba, says he is one of those with a significant loss to his herd.
Outside direct kills, the producer has noted an uptick in abortions that he says is from cows getting bitten, higher open rates and a decrease in calf weight.
“I’ve also noticed that when you have a wolf problem, that you have cows that won’t graze the land efficiently,” he said. “They’ll stay right close to the corrals where they are, so they overgraze one section.”
Metner wants wolves taken off the list of big game animals and looser restrictions on hunting, something that his fellow MBP members also endorsed when the resolution came up at the AGM.
Wolves are currently covered under any big game licence. Wolf season in Manitoba ran from Aug. 28 to March 31 last year, as wolf hunting and trapping seasons have been extended across Manitoba to protect the moose population, according to the 2017 Manitoba Hunting Guide.
On the tail of that resolution, MBP members voted to push government to add full-time staff dedicated to problem wildlife and put a more proactive prevention program on the books.
Members also want insurance prices to be moved. Prices should be based on the October five weight price for an animal, Metner argued, the price he says they would actually get when moving that animal to market, rather than prices earlier in the year.
“This year was really good, I found one in three (kills),” Metner said of his own insurance experience. “I got paid $945 and $1,055 when calves in October sold for $1,500. I got nothing for the ones that were lost. I got nothing for the ones that aborted, so basically we’re down 50 yearlings this year.”
Producers also want to get paid for damage from magpies and ravens. The birds may dig wounds into the exposed back or shoulders of cattle, and farmers have noted problems with infection or shipping that wounded animal, but the damage is not insurable under MASC’s wildlife damage policy.
Bears have offered another challenge. Producers in the Riding Mountain area spearheaded a resolution that would lobby government to forbid bear baits containing meat or animal fat.
Larry Clifford, who introduced the resolution Feb. 8, said he notes an increase in bear activity when baits are removed from land near his after every hunting season.
Where are the problems and what’s next?
All but two of this year’s predation-related resolutions stemmed from Metner’s region, although his testimony might be echoed by producers closer to the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border. The Interlake, northwest Manitoba (in particular around Riding Mountain National Park) and northern stretches of the province’s agricultural lands are all hotbeds for predation.
Lemon noted predation as one of the major issues on the MBP table, although he says the different resolutions brought forward this year will need different approaches.
“In the case of the magpie resolution, that’s really around a compensation program and being able to say, ‘If I get damage for this reason or that reason, I can be compensated, but for magpies I cannot,’ and it seems, in a lot of ways, almost arbitrary,” he said pointing out that annual crops can get compensation from certain bird damages.
“The predation file continues to be a hard one to push… there’s nobody who loves wildlife and seeing wildlife on their daily basis more than a cattle farmer, but just help us when they become a problem,” he added. “It’s unfortunate that we seem to be either save the wolves or save the cattle. Why can’t we find the middle ground that actually says, save the wolves, but when they become a problem, let’s save the cattle?”
Ben Fox, MBP president, says they are expecting, “measurable, deliverable action,” on predation from the province in the next year, although there is “a lot of work ahead of us,” on the resolutions passed Feb. 8.
“As far as which ones are going to be able to be more quickly acted upon, that really just falls back on which departments we’re dealing with and what entities we’re dealing with,” he said.
MBP will likely focus on resolutions with the most impact to producer profit, he said.