Lingering winter weather could have dire impact on farmers and ranchers

By Dori Modney (@Dori_Modney on Twitter)
April 2, 2018 - 2:23pm Updated: April 2, 2018 - 4:07pm

LETHBRIDGE - While the average Albertan is complaining about shovelling the white stuff, farmers and ranchers have other growing concerns about the continuing winter weather.

Farmers will be late getting into their fields, while ranchers are in the midst of calving season, and they're losing calves to the cold, snowy conditions.

Local cattleman, Bob Balog, says the cow-calf people are having an extremely difficult time.

"The first thing that's happened is they're running short of feed - the hay has gone up to horrendous prices and so has straw. Central and northern Alberta farmers may have extra feed, but it takes a lot of money to truck it here, so feed is starting to run short."

It doesn't end there.

"Now we put on top of that, the ups and downs in the weather and in the temperature and the amount of snow we're getting and it's very, very difficult for anyone calving cows, especially the outfits that can't get them rounded up and get them in to keep these calves alive.

"The weather is so cold that if you don't get to a calf within eight or ten minutes after its born, it'll freeze or it'll get set back and you'll have a problem with it - the people who are calving cows right now, our hearts go out to them, because they're just having a very, very difficult time.

"While it will be another three or four days before they have definite numbers, Balog estimates ranchers have lost as many calves in the last six to seven days, as they have in the last seven or eight years, due to cold, snowy weather.

That means financial losses. Balog notes that calf prices in the fall are an unknown, but if you use an average price of $1000 a head, losses could be substantial.

"If you end up losing seven calves, or twelve calves or 21 calves and you fed the mother for the whole year and there's going to be no income [from the sale of the calf], it takes a lot from the bottom line, so when you lose a calf it's your whole year's work is shot."

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