Farmers and ranchers on the Canadian prairies have seen this all before, but what is different this go-round with the drought conditions is the timing in the growing season the drought has been occurring and the number of droughts over the past several years.
In the RM of Big Stick, a special meeting among councillors was held on Tuesday, July 27 to discuss the severe conditions impacting their ratepayers.
“Some of the the crops are at two to three bushels an acre and for the ranchers with hay land, they are looking at nothing to one-quarter tonne per acre,” said Reeve Quinton Jacksteit, emphasizing the importance of council to represent their ratepayers. “We are here to represent the people and this is too important to wait until our next regular meeting.”
With pastures drying out, many cattle producers are moving their herd closer to home where conditions are not much better and purchasing hay is becoming more costly and less available.
“With the drought being so widespread, it’s going to be hard to find hay and the price of hay is now up to $240 a tonne,” said Jacksteit.
One of the few alternatives remaining is to sell off part of the herd, which in turn will saturate the market and drive down cattle prices.
“The market drives the prices,” he said. “Then, it takes years to build the herd back up. There is no reprieve here and herds are being depleted.”
Along with the pastures, a lot of crops are beyond any hope of recovery should some rain hit the area now and producers are making the tough decision to till it now and use what little crop is there for feed or plough it under.
Jacksteit said the crops grown in the RM of Big Stick are primarily pulses, wheat, durum, barley and some canola, all of which are suffering or completely gone. And, to add insult to injury, with hot, dry weather comes an influx of grasshoppers that will quickly gobble any crops left standing.
“The problem is you can buy the insurance and it does offer some support, but it’s not enough. Things are getting tough,” he said. “We need help out here.”
At the special meeting, RM of Big Stick councillors discussed declaring the rural municipality a drought assisted area.
“We have to make sure we aren’t getting left out of any programs available,” said Jacksteit. “There are so many things against agriculture. It’s difficult times.”