Nova Scotia

Port Williams farmer considers getting rid of cattle following drought

Stephen Rand of Port Williams, N.S., said his 45 beef cattle are feeling the pinch after a tough summer.

Older cattle might end up at auction or the slaughterhouse, says Stephen Rand

Port Williams farmer Stephen Rand says he's had to get rid of most of his cattle due to drought. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

October normally means a barn full of hay on Stephen Rand's farm in Port Williams, N.S., but this fall it's only half full following this year's drought.

It means his 45 beef cattle are feeling the pinch. 

"Some of the animals we won't be keeping," Rand said Friday. "The older cows will have to go probably. And then we're into the position where we start rebuilding again in another year."

Stephen Rand says his cattle have less hay to eat because of drought conditions this summer. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The remaining cattle are "on a diet," he said, and it "will be very interesting" to see how many are left by spring.

Aside from the hay, there's also less silage and the grass isn't growing as well.

'It's going to be rough'

Rand and his wife are trying to find enough feed for their remaining cattle, but they can't afford to have it shipped in from elsewhere.

"There's not going to be anything thrown out of the manger, I'll put it that way," Rand said. "They'll have to eat it or go without."

Stephen Rand's says his barn is only half as full of hay as it normally would be this time of year. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Some of Stephen Rand's 45 remaining cattle. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

It's a big setback for Rand, 65, who's been trying to build back his herd after similar drought issues in the past.

Typically, many of his young cows are sold off in the spring while the older ones remain. Some of his older stock have been around for 10 to 12 years.

Rand and his wife will have to soon decide which to keep, and which to ship to auction or the slaughterhouse, so the hay can be used to feed the rest of the herd through to spring.

Troubles with squash

Cattle is not the only problem for Rand. 

He and his wife sat at their kitchen table on Friday peeling squash. The crop was hit this year by pests. 

"This is a new bug. It's a squash bug, not a beetle bug. It stings the vines and it puts, according to our specialist up here at the agricultural centre, it puts a disease in that vine and ... attacks the inside of the squash as it's growing," said Rand.

"Usually we have tremendous brown squash. This year we have to pick through them. You can't tell what's there until you cut them open."

The squash brings in $500 a week, which "is a lot of money right now to us," he said. Rand estimates that two thirds of his crop have been infected.

"Squash is our second income. It's been a double hit. First we have drought and then we have a lack of hay and now the squash with this bug. It's a double hit," he said.

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With files from Paul Palmeter