This year's drought is having a widespread impact on farmers and ranchers from British Columbia to Ontario.
This week, provincial cattle organizations took part in the Canadian Cattlemen's Association Town Hall Meeting to give a perspective on the impact of the wildfire and drought situation in their areas.
Kevin Boon, General Manager for the BC Cattlemen's Association, says a lack of rainfall in the interior and southern half of the province combined with the intense heat from a few weeks ago have had a major impact.
"Temperatures were up in the mid to high 50s, record highs of 49.5 just literally parched the grass that was there. So, we're in an extremely drought ridden position where hay production is way down. But more severely is the fire situation right now. Typically, we don't start fires till the end of July, this year we had them burning at the end of June. We have to date burnt 275,000 hectares, well over half a million acres of land. Most of this is in our prime grasslands, and so while we call them forest fires, they're wildfires that are taking out that grass. So not only are we down in what our winter supply is, we're now eating up our summer and winter supplies with fire, which will have no recovery for it. So, we're in a double whammy situation of losing our summer pasture, and much of our winter as we move forward. It's really extremely hard for us to predict where this is going to come out."
The BC government has announced that there will be fire recovery assistance, Boon notes overall their biggest concern is will they be able to save that mother cow and base herd to carry on.
The Alberta Beef Producers have been taking every opportunity they can to push for disaster relief options for producers impacted by the drought.
Chair Melanie Wowk says they've been talking with federal and provincial representatives to make them aware of the rapidly deteriorating situation and potential options
"Such as expediting water approvals on government leases, utilization of vacant crown lands for grazing or haying, as well as allowing subletting for unused crown lands."
She noted prior to the Federal Provincial Ag Ministers meeting, they provided Minister Dreeshin's office with a list of informal recommendations that would help producers.
"The recommendations were as follows to allow insured crops to be designated for alternative use in a timely manner, to allow support for quality water access, and infrastructure to implement a feed-me-drought assistance program under Agri Recovery, and an immediate announcement of the list of designated regions for the 2021 Livestock Tax Deferral Program."
Arnold Balicki, Chair of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association, says it was great to see Minister Marit response to the drought situation, being the first minister to call on Ottawa for a Livestock Tax Deferral Program for the entire province.
He says the situation in Saskatchewan is dire, if you go down five inches there isn't a drop of moisture.
"There's two things going on here. First, we need access to feed supply, we need good quality drinking water for livestock. And then the second component is we need some money in our jeans so that we can afford to buy the feed and do the water work that's required."
Balicki says this is the worst episode of drought he's ever seen in the province, with drought years on top of drought years it has depleted all of our moisture resources.
He added something else that will need to be addressed with this situation is the orderly marketing of all the cull cows that will be coming to town.
Tyler Fulton, President of the Manitoba Beef Producers, says there's a ton of consistency across the west, noting the take home message is how widespread the situation is.
"From a short term perspective, we've been exclusively focused on creating a situation where there's as much winter feed that's produced as possible. What we mean by that is just a collaborative approach from livestock and crop producers alike to be able to utilize some of these marginal crops, cereal crops, that are burning up and being able to bail them for livestock feed."
He notes longer term, they are talking about things like livestock tax deferrals, and Agri Recovery.
"We think as a board, it probably makes the most sense to be something like a per head payment that would help individual producers make the choices and the solutions that make the most sense for them."
Fulton says AAFC Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau will be in Manitoba today to tour the region along with Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler.
Rob Lipsett is President of the Beef Farmers of Ontario and says it's a similar story there other than Southern Ontario has been receiving rain, but the situation gets more dire the further North you get.