New Brunswick

Send us your cows: N.B. group makes unique pitch to Prairie farmers facing hay shortage

The New Brunswick Cattle Producers Association is pitching an idea that would see farmers in Western Canada ship their cows east to feed on hay, which has been in short supply out west because of severe drought conditions.

N.B. Cattle Producers Association says moving cattle east makes more sense than shipping hay west

The New Brunswick Beef Producers Association is pitching Western Canadian farmers on the idea of shipping their cattle east in response to a hay shortage in prairie provinces. (Patrick Foucault/Radio-Canada)

A New Brunswick farming group is pitching Western Canadian farmers on the idea of sending their cattle east in response to a hay shortage caused by severe drought conditions in the Prairie provinces.

Instead of shipping hay west from the Maritimes to feed cows in Western Canada, the New Brunswick Cattle Producers Association is facilitating arrangements that would see the cows brought to the source of the hay, said Cedric MacLeod, the group's opportunities co-ordinator.

MacLeod said a transport trailer can only hold about 60 bales of hay, and multiple trips would be required to continuously feed cattle out west.

"That's a lot of load," MacLeod said. "So it's more efficient to bring the animals to the feed, and that's why we're encouraging folks to really consider that as a viable option."

Last week, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture announced it was working on an initiative called "Hay West" that would see surplus hay sent from Maritime provinces to Western Canada, where dire hay and feed shortages loom.

MacLeod said his group has already made arrangements to send hay to northwestern Ontario, which has also faced drought conditions, and plans to send more to Manitoba.

However, he said transporting hay that far can be impractical, with the transportation cost outweighing the value of the product.

"The transport cost to northwestern Ontario is about one-to-one on the dollar value of the feed to transport. If you go over the border and into Manitoba and certainly in Saskatchewan now, the transportation is more than the actual feed is worth."

Cedric MacLeod, opportunities co-ordinator for the New Brunswick Cattle Producers Association, said it would be more efficient to ship cattle east than to ship hay west. (Joe MacDonald/CBC)

If cows are moved east, MacLeod said arrangements could include New Brunswick farmers purchasing cattle from western farmers who are looking to retire or downsize.

They could also involve cattle being boarded on New Brunswick farms until the Prairies' hay shortage is over, he said.

MacLeod said the idea seems to be gaining traction with farmers.

"I had some really good conversations with some growers out of Saskatchewan late last week and yesterday," he said. "Folks are looking for solutions and it's on the table."

Move would come down to 'individual business' decisions

Carson Callum, executive director of the Manitoba Beef Producers Association, said farmers in his province appreciate the support they've received from their counterparts in the Maritimes.

"Lots of producers in that area have put their hand up, saying 'We have extra and we want to get it that way,' " he said.

"Now we're just going to figure out what can be done from a logistical standpoint to get it back here, because it's not just … a few miles to ship it. It's a pretty big distance."

In terms of sending cattle to New Brunswick, Callum said that would have to come down to decisions between farmers.

"Those are definite options I think producers are considering, and it'll take an individual business decision to be able to move animals out," he said.

"I commend all the work that's being done by Cedric and his group to look at what areas are available and who could maybe winter those cattle for a few months because for some folks, it might make more logistical sense to move the animals out there than to move the heavy, bulky feed out this way."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aidan Cox

Journalist

Aidan Cox is a journalist for the CBC based in Fredericton. He can be reached at aidan.cox@cbc.ca and followed on Twitter @Aidan4jrn.

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