Nova Scotia

Farmer struggles to hydrate cattle in 'dry, dry, dry' southwest Nova Scotia

Conditions are so dry in Yarmouth County that farmers are delivering water to their animals and experts are worried about fish in shallow ponds.

Dry conditions have people worried about livestock and fish

Cattle are drinking from bathtubs of delivered water due to dry conditions south of Yarmouth, N.S. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Dry conditions in southwestern Nova Scotia have people worried about livestock and fish.

In Yarmouth County, where ponds are almost empty, farmers are delivering water to their animals. That's something Trevor Perry has never had to do.

"We're just trying to keep them hydrated," the farmer said. 

Much of southwestern Nova Scotia is struggling with drought conditions, like Perry is on Forest Hill Farm in Chebogue, N.S., a community a few kilometres south of Yarmouth. 

Brown fields cover much of the south shore of Nova Scotia as dry weather continues. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

Brown, coarse grass

Perry has several small pastures for his herd of beef cattle but, due to the extremely dry conditions, the pasture's grass is not growing. It's brown and coarse.

Combine that with ponds that have no water in them, and the animals have had a stressful summer.

Perry trucked in two large plastic containers into two pastures Wednesday morning.

"Each of these containers is about 1,000 litres, so in total we've got 2,000 litres of water," he said.

Ponds have almost dried up on Forest Hill Farm in Chebogue, N.S., so the farmer has had to ship in water for his cattle. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Bathtubs instead of ponds

The water was dumped into an old bath tub in one pasture.

A large bull was the first to get a good drink. Cows and young calves followed.

"I never would have dreamed we would have this happen, especially here at this end of the province," Perry said.

"It's just dry, dry, dry, and I've never seen anything like it before."

Winter worries

Perry got the water from the municipal water supply just northeast of Yarmouth.

The pond he usually uses to water his cattle for the winter is also almost dry. 

He said he's now worrying he may have to bring in water for a long time, unless rain starts replenishing the ponds on the farm.

Oxygen low in shallow water

The shallow rivers and streams are putting fish in big trouble, as well, according to Mike McNeil, a supervisor at the McGowan Lake Fish Hatchery near Kejimkujik National Park.

The shallow water also means warmer temperatures and less oxygen, he said.

"If there isn't any flow to replenish oxygen levels in those pools, then [the fish] are stressed, stressed to the max," McNeil said.

So far, McNeil does not know of any fish mortalities in southwestern Nova Scotia. 

If some significant rain doesn't fall soon and water levels begin to rise back up to normal levels, that could change, he said.


Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.