Dry conditions have Manitoba beef farmers worried about how they'll feed their livestock

The lack of moisture has reduced forage yields for cattle, and the president of the beef producers association says the situation is critical.

Dry cycle has left feed yields depleted, beef producers group says

Cows are seen in a pasture in southern Manitoba on a cloudy day.
Dry conditions in the province are reducing forage yields, and the president of the province's beef producers association says the situation is critical. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Dry conditions in the province have some Manitoba beef producers worried about how they will feed their cattle. 

The lack of moisture this season has reduced forage yields, and the president of the province's beef producers association says the situation is critical.

Tom Teichroeb of Manitoba Beef Producers says supplies were so depleted this year that farmers had to put their cattle to pasture much earlier than usual.

"That in turn has produced a domino effect of further depleting your pasture and your reserves," Teichroeb said. 

Cattle farmers had to contend with similar conditions last summer as well, which damaged hay and grass production.

Manitoba Beef Producers president Tom Teichroeb says this year's dry conditions have left feed supplies depleted. (Radio-Canada)

As a result, farmers haven't had a chance to restock their supplies and may be forced to buy feed from grain producers, he said.

That then puts financial pressure on them, since their other costs aren't changing, Teichroeb said. 

"And yet you are left with less than half, or potentially even worse than that, of feed production, so … you do have to reach out to our friends in grain industry, in other industries," he said.

He says the association is planning to speak with the Manitoba government about allowing producers to use some protected areas for forage to feed their livestock. 

A map showing which areas of the province are most in need of precipitation. (Radio-Canada)

Shawn Cabak, a livestock specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, says the province has been in a dry cycle since last spring, leaving most of the province with less than half of its normal precipitation levels. 

"We need those May rains, we need those early June rains, and we haven't had much."

The good thing about feeding cattle however, is they will eat a wide variety of things. 

"As long as the ration is properly balanced, the cattle will do quite well," said Cabak.

The province also has a hay listing on its website for farmers looking for feed, he said.