Manitoba

'Challenging times' for Manitoba farmers as drought conditions persist

In the rural municipality of St. Laurent, an agricultural state of disaster has been declared. The RM is asking for provincial and federal help. Otherwise they say some farmers may need to sell or cull their herds.

Dry conditions are putting a strain on Manitoba's agriculture sector

A cow drinks water from a makeshift trough on Tom Johnson's farm. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Near Oak Point, Man., rancher Tom Johnson waters his cattle using makeshift troughs made out of old tractor tires. 

"They probably just drank these dry this morning," he said.

The dugouts his 120 head of cattle usually get water from are nearly dry. His cattle also have access to Lake Manitoba, but its level is so low, the water is too far away. 

So twice a day — morning and night — he hauls water from two wells. 

"Never have I had to drill wells," Johnson told CBC News during an interview on his farm. "The dugouts have always lasted until late October, they freeze in November and we get snow.… End of June, beginning of July and our dugouts are dry.

"I've never, ever seen that before." 

Tom Johnson says his dugout has dried up and his cattle no longer have access to Lake Manitoba for water. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Many of his neighbours are in the same boat, he said. 

Dugouts are dry, fields have little to no hay to bale and pastures are bare. 

State of disaster

In the rural municipality of St. Laurent, an agricultural state of disaster has been declared.  The RM is asking for provincial and federal help.

Otherwise they say some farmers may need to sell or cull their herds.

It's a similar story across Manitoba.

Many areas have received less than half the normal amount of rainfall. Last week's extreme heat stunted crop growth even further.

It has also put greater strain on water supplies. 

'Challenging times'

"To say that we haven't seen this before wouldn't be right, but we're in some challenging times," said Bill Campbell, who operates a farm near Minto, Man., south of Brandon.

Campbell, who is also president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, said his farm is also dry.

Livestock producers, he said, need the most help.

A group that represents Manitoba farmers says parts of the province are in rough shape. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"Probably the most important thing at this point in time is access to good, clean drinking water for livestock," said Campbell. 

On Wednesday, Premier Brian Pallister told reporters that he has toured parts of the Interlake. He said discussions about what aid the province can offer will happen soon.

"We're all hoping for rain because there was some timely rains a number of days ago. But we need more rain," said Pallister. "The drought conditions are real."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Manitoba Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen said the department is closely monitoring conditions across the province and is in discussions with impacted groups to see how the province may be of additional assistance.

Holding out hope

Johnson said he isn't ready to throw in the towel and sell his herd yet, but will hold out as long as he can.

"We're gonna see how far we can go and make those tough decisions this fall," he said. 

Campbell said it's too early to attach a monetary value on how much this year's drought could cost Manitoba farmers.

He said that won't be known until crops are harvested later this summer.  Campbell said farmers will need to make some crucial decisions in the coming weeks. 

Dry conditions are putting a strain on Manitoba's agriculture sector

2 months ago
2:19
Dry conditions are causing concern in Manitoba. There are worries some farmers may need to sell cattle herds. Because water and feed are hard to come by. 2:19

With files from Cameron Macintosh

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