2003 was challenging year for farmers

The new year is almost here and once again it’s a reminder of how quickly time passes. It also is an opportunity to stop and reflect on what has happened this past year—even though we might prefer to forget it.
For producers, it would be an understatement to say 2003 has been challenging.
We came out of a mild winter and things were looking pretty good heading into spring. Many had managed to bring the herd through on a somewhat tight hay supply and were looking forward to a more “normal” year.
Then came that one cow in Alberta that tested positive for BSE in May.
Within hours of the announcement of the test results, everything changed for producers with ruminants. In fact, it changed for the whole Canadian agriculture industry.
Many suddenly were heading into the pasture season stuck with more animals than they had planned on. And those animals that could be sold suddenly brought in substantially fewer dollars.
To make matters worse, at least in our area, yields of first-cut hay were down quite a bit. That meant banking on a better-than-average second cut.
Again, things didn’t work out as hoped. We were drier than usual throughout the summer, re-growth was not very good, and in many cases, second-cut yields were not sufficient.
Pastures also were not faring too well.
Producers were faced with a dilemma. They were short on feed and pasture, and had “more mouths” to feed than usual, but cattle prices were very low. Sell for very little money or feed some precious hay?
There was some optimism when the U.S. started accepting our boneless beef, and feeder cattle prices rose to a little more acceptable level. However, cull cattle, and the “guaranteed” fall cash flow they produced, remained in the bottom of the barrel.
Everyone has an example where a producer shipped cull animals and after they went through the sales ring, the farmer actually owed money.
Our winter has been fairly mild so far and not too sloppy. Hopefully, this will continue and help stretch out the supply of hay.
There are some things you have no control over as farmers and this year certainly was an example of that. 2004 is another farming year—and hopefully things will be better than last year.
Dates to remember
•Jan. 13—Rainy River Soil & Crop Improvement Association annual meeting, 7 p.m., Morley municipal building; and
•Jan. 21—Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting, 7 p.m., Stratton.

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