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New Program Insures Pastures For Grazing Days

“This is a good step forward for the industry.”

– GREG JOHNSON, MCPA

Anew crop insurance program announced Jan. 19 will give Manitoba cattle producers an innovative way to protect their livestock from feed shortages.

The program will insure pastures for a guaranteed number of days for grazing.

Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation will launch a pilot project this spring for the 2010 crop year.

Called the Pasture Days Insurance Program, the pilot will involve 60 producers from various regions of the province, said Neil Hamilton, MASC president and CEO. Confirmations could go out to producers by late February.

GRAZING DAYS

Under the program, producers put cattle out on pasture and contract for them to graze a certain number of days. If cattle get fewer grazing days than producers have contracted for (because of drought, flood or other natural occurrence) and animals have to be taken off pastures, payments are triggered.

Hamilton stressed the program is just another form of crop insurance and not livestock production insurance.

“I tend to look at this as more a form of traditional production insurance as opposed to livestock insurance,” he said in an interview during Manitoba Ag Days.

Hamilton said the new program could deal with the kind of situations which occurred recently in the Interlake and southwestern Manitoba. The Interlake had flooding and the southwest region experienced drought. Grazing in both regions was limited.

“This would capture both,” Hamilton said.

STEP TOWARDS PRODUCTION INSURANCE

Cattle producers also see the program as a possible move

toward production insurance – a program which has evaded the livestock industry despite years of trying to develop such a model.

“This is a good step forward for the industry,” said Greg Johnson, a Manitoba Cattle Producers Association director.

Hamilton said he hoped the new pasture program will encourage more producers to take out crop insurance for forages.

MASC currently insures 85 per cent of Manitoba’s annual crops but only 20 per cent of forage crops, he said.

MCPA and other farm groups proposed the program to MASC

nearly a year ago, citing gaps in insurance for pasture grazing.

Johnson, who farms near Baldur, said the program is significant because it separates hay insurance from grazing insurance. Right now, producers can insure their pastures for hay yields but not for grazing days. If a producer gets a good first cut of hay, but pastures dry up immediately afterwards and cattle can’t graze, insurance doesn’t treat that as a crop failure, he said.

Now, producers who experience unexpected late-season feed losses can insure against that, said Johnson.

He said the program could form a beachhead for livestock insurance, in which producers insure their animals against lost production.

MASC has struggled in recent years to develop a program for livestock producers to insure against disease losses in their herds. But so far the agency finds such programs too high risk because death losses can be due to poor management as well as legitimate disease outbreaks.

Johnson said MCPA is proposing a model in which cattle producers can insure for a certain rate of gain in their animals. [email protected]

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