Wet weather limited Dane Guignion’s ability to harvest hay last summer – and the time his cattle spent grazing on pasture.
Guignion had crop insurance contracts for both hay production and days on pasture. He didn’t get paid for the first one. He did for the second.
The reason? The hay was there but Guignion had trouble putting up bales because of wet conditions. But those same conditions forced his cattle to graze for fewer days than the minimum number covered by crop insurance. That triggered a claim.
The amount was small: only $2,300. But Guignion, who farms at Pine River north of Dauphin, feels it was worthwhile because pasture insurance recognizes that bad weather affects grazing as well as hay.
That makes it a superior program, he said.
“It’s not coupled with hay and if you are short on pasture, you get paid for it.”
Guignion was one of 54 Manitoba cattle producers who registered for the Pasture Days Insurance program last year. The pilot project offered by the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) insured more than 65,000 pasture acres and 16,000 animals for more than $1.9 million in coverage. It paid out more than $32,000 for seven claims.
The three-year pilot now enters its second year, and the signup deadline was March 31. Guignion is participating again.
“I think it’s better than the one tied to hay,” he said.
Launched in 2010, the Pasture Days program insures cattle producers for the amount of time their pastures are viable during the grazing season. The coverage period is May 1 to Nov. 30. Coverage is set at 90 per cent of a producer’s normal grazing period.
Guignion’s cattle were on pasture last year for 118 days. He was covered for 130 days, based on his number of animal units.
Producers call the program significant because it separates hay insurance from grazing insurance. Previously, producers could insure their pastures for hay yields but not grazing days. If a producer got a good first cut of hay but nothing after that, insurance didn’t treat it as a crop failure.
Now, producers who experience unexpected late-season feed losses can insure against that.
MASC stresses Pasture Days Insurance is not livestock insurance, which insures producers against lost production, mainly from disease. Such programs currently do not exist in Canada, although the Growing Forward agricultural policy framework provides for them.
The closest example going is Alberta’s Cattle Price Insurance Program, which insures the province’s cattle feeders against market price drops.
But Pasture Days Insurance is still “significantly different from other insurance programs offered by MASC; therefore, it is anticipated that it will be offered as a pilot program for at least three years,” a provincial spokesperson said.