Feed loss not as dire this year, farmers say

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While feed shortages don’t seem to be as severe this year compared to 2021, producers are still welcoming the return of the federal government’s livestock sale tax deferral program.

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While feed shortages don’t seem to be as severe this year compared to 2021, producers are still welcoming the return of the federal government’s livestock sale tax deferral program.

The initiative allows farmers who have had to sell 15 per cent or more of their breeding herds due to feed shortages associated with extreme weather to defer the income they received from those sales to the next tax year.

Should producers reacquire breeding stock, the deferred income can be offset by those costs.

The deferral was introduced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in 2021 due to drought conditions.

In contrast, parts of the Prairies have received too much rain this year.

The announcement was for parts — but not the entirety — of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. In Manitoba, the eligible areas are in the province’s south.

Westman municipalities where farmers can take advantage of the deferral include Boissevain-Morton, Brenda-Waskada, Cartwright-Roblin, Clanwilliam-Erickson, Dauphin, Deloraine-Winchester, Elton, Glenboro-South Cypress, Glenella-Landsdowne, Grassland, Harrison Park, Killarney-Turtle Mountain, Lorne, Louise, McCreary, Minto, Norfolk-Treherne, North Cypress-Langford, North Norfolk, Oakland-Wawanesa, Oakview, Prairie Lakes, Riverdale, Rosedale, Souris-Glenwood, Victoria, WestLake-Gladstone and Whitehead.

Fortunately, the overall situation is not as dire compared to last year, Manitoba Beef Producers general manager Carson Callum said Wednesday.

“From a growing conditions standpoint, it is better than last year when it was such a widespread drought effectively across the whole west,” Callum said.

“This year, we’ve had a lot more rain that’s, unfortunately, caused problems on the other side of the spectrum where producers have excess water and though the grass is growing and the pastures look good, some of the hay and seed crops are challenging to get to or harvest.”

A lot of the moisture issues, according to Callum, were caused by the heavy snowfall and subsequent flooding that Manitoba experienced in late winter and early spring.

The worst-affected area this year is the Interlake, where Callum said water is still covering some feed crops and preventing others from being harvested. Other isolated pockets throughout Manitoba are experiencing challenges as well.

“We greatly asked for [rain] last year, and it’s all coming down now,” Callum said.

Like last year, Manitoba Beef Producers has heard of instances where farmers are having to consider culling their herds or selling their breeding stock to deal with feed shortages.

Callum said his organization welcomes the opening of the program this year, but would like to see it reformed.

With sustained periods of extreme weather, Callum said it would be helpful for deferrals to be granted for several years instead of having to be announced on a year-to-year basis.

In its current form, the program only covers breeding stock. Manitoba Beef Producers is interested in other classes of cattle being covered as well, since the feed shortages also affect them.

The list of eligible municipalities released by the federal government is just an initial one and any producers concerned about their municipality being left off the list should contact Manitoba Beef Producers so they can advocate for modifications, he added.

In January, the Sun spoke with several cattle producers about the feed struggles they were experiencing.

In conversation with two of those producers from the Brandon area on Wednesday, they said it had been easier to grow feed this year.

“Last winter we did, but this year we’re not going to have any problems with feed,” said Ian Grossert, owner of Howpark Farms.

At Mar Mac Farms, owner Blair McRae said his hay, silage and cereal crops are looking good.

“We’ve had a lot of water that’s drowned out areas, some flooding, but for the most part, the feed issue is going to be not too bad,” he said.

After a late spring start to the growing season, McRae said he was hopeful that Westman would now experience a late fall.

Though his farm had sold some cattle last year, it hadn’t been enough to worry about applying for the program. McRae said this year his farm bred 225 cattle. Last year, they had 280 animals.

“We sold 60 cows, but we can build that back up again pretty easy,” he said.

» cslark@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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