400 cattle stranded, farmer says province needs to step up

A northern Manitoba farmer said he's feeling exhausted and frustrated after weeks of battling floodwater on and around his land that he says the province is responsible for.

Overland flooding has left hundreds of cattle stranded and running out of feed, farmer says

400 of Tim Berscheid's cows and calves are stranded by overland flooding on his farm near The Pas. (Supplied)

A northern Manitoba farmer said he's feeling exhausted and frustrated after weeks of battling floodwater on and around his land that he says the province is responsible for.

Tim Berscheid has 400 cows and calves he wants to care for but can't. They're effectively stranded on a 20-acre patch of land on his farm in the rural municipality of Kelsey, near The Pas, surrounded by a feet of water Berscheid says overflowed from a nearby watershed the province controls.

He's calling on the province and the local government to step in, help drain the water and provide disaster assistance for him and other farmers who are using up winter feed for cattle who can't graze on the submerged grass.

"I've emailed, I've sent letters, I've talked to people," he said. "This has been going on for a long time and they just throw up their hands and say 'It's wet.'"

If Berscheid wants to check on his animals, he has to get in a canoe. For now, they're eating winter feed that happened to be stored nearby, but the supply is running out. If nothing changes soon, Berscheid said he doesn't know how he'll feed them.

'That's my life's work'

​Berscheid has been farming on that land for 36 years and said he's never seen such severe flooding before.

He said the problem is in part due to a broken pump in the drainage system pumping water out of the watershed near his property. He said there's no flow through some parts of the system, and trash is piling up around some of the drainage structure.

He said the situation has left him exhausted and feeling unsupported by the local and provincial government.

"That's my life's work," he said through tears. "This situation gets played out on a daily basis ... (Governments) put in drainage works and turn a blind eye, and cattle guys take it because we're on some of the land that is not the best land."

"People that are downstream from these works get hammered and everybody turns a blind eye."

He said he's asked the RM and the province to take action and bring in disaster assistance measures, and has been told the RM will continue to study the problem.

Not a drainage system issue, RM says

Rod Berezowecki, reeve of the RM of Kelsey, said he doesn't believe the flooding was caused by broken or damaged drainage systems.

He said the entire region is facing worse than usual flooding on farms thanks to excessive rainfall — the worst anyone around there has seen in a long time.

"The lake pumping that's done isn't contributing a lot of water," Berezowecki said.

"It's just the fact that we've had an excessive amount of precipitation through the summer months and especially this last month. It's mostly an issue of too much precipitation on an area that can't take it."

Berezowecki said the region has always had difficulties with drainage, and the past 12 to 14 years have been especially wet. This year has been one of the worst for the area, he said, and Berscheid isn't the only producer being hit.

"It's huge," Berezowecki said of the impact. "I think we're talking 30 inches of rainfall in total this summer."

He said the RM is checking to see if the situation qualifies for the disaster relief Berscheid wants, but he's not sure.

Regardless, he said the RM's efforts to fight the flooding should start to work and the region will see some relief within one or two weeks, provided there's no more precipitation.

Province responds

A spokesperson for Manitoba Agriculture confirmed the province has received Berscheid's concerns.

"We understand that the producer faces challenges and Manitoba Agriculture will be available to offer expertise and support with regards to feed rationing for adequate nutrition, feed analysis, financial consultation and the opportunity to locate additional feed through the provincial hay listing," the spokesperson wrote in an email.

"The Pas area has seen unprecedented rains and flooding for this time of year.  As a result, both pumps near this property, the Main Pump Station and Victor Jory Pump Station, are operating near or at capacity."

The rural municipality of Kelsey is about 550 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.