Manitoba rancher fears for 140 lambs trapped on flooded farm

A Manitoba sheep rancher north of Dauphin is at his wit's end watching his animals struggling after getting stuck in the mud.

Rancher north of Dauphin says sheep, ewes getting foot rot from flooded land

Wet, mucky ranch land in the Dauphin area is trapping animals and causing foot rot to spread. 1:51

A Manitoba sheep rancher north of Dauphin is at his wit's end watching his animals struggle after getting stuck in the mud.

Colin Gawazuk said this is the fourth year his farm has flooded.

Gawazuk has more than 220 animals, most of them lambs, and they are starting to go lame standing in the water.

"There's two that are limping really bad and they're getting foot rot," said Gawazuk. "If I don't get these sheep on to some kind of high ground somewhere I'm going to lose all these sheep."

Under these conditions, foot rot can spread throughout a herd of sheep in a matter of days, he said.

There is so much water after recent heavy rains, Gawazuk said his 80 ewes, four rams and 140 lambs can't walk through their pasture.

The sheep are supposed to move from the pasture into the barn at night, but they haven’t been able to due to the mud. Like most livestock, sheep need hard ground or they risk getting hoof rot.

“It’s just soup. It don’t matter where you go. It’s just mud,” he said.

He’s already had to put one down.

“Could you imagine shooting one of your own? Could you? That’s what it’s like,” he said.

Gawazuk said other farmers in the area are having similar problems. The Dauphin area has seen 60 to 65 millimetres of rain in the past 10 days. Normally, the area sees 80 mm in a month.

Dennis Forbes, the reeve of the RM of Dauphin, said all of its 500 farmers are dealing with ground saturation.

“It means not one ounce more can the ground absorb – not even an ounce. It’s literally full,” said Forbes.

Nearby, Bill Matvieshen’s tractors are stuck, and he can’t plant his oat crop. Making matters worse, he just found out he won’t get crop insurance because he didn’t use pesticides.

“How am I supposed to spray the land when there’s so much moisture I can’t even drive over it?” he said.

Gawazuk said he has called Minister of Agriculture Ron Kostyshyn but is still waiting for a reply.

“I would like him to come out here, get in my tractor, and go for a ride, and then I would like him to go look at my animals, and how they're suffering,” said Gawazuk.

“And I would like to see what he'd say and if I didn't get the right answer, I would like to see him take his boots off and go stand in that water for three or four weeks and see how his feet would feel.”

Kostyshyn acknowledged he has received complaints and has sent staff to the RM to figure out how to help.

The spokesperson for the provincial agriculture department said officials are working with emergency officials and the rural municipality on the issue.

In the meantime, Gawazuk is herding his sheep onto the highway to try and keep them safe.