Farmers in the district facing difficult decisions in drought

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer
ntrivuncic@fortfrances.com

While the dry and sunny weather may be nice for weekends at the cabin, farmers in the district are suffering the consequences of drought and are having to face the hard decision of selling their livestock.

Kim Jo Bliss said it is a very stressful time because they are at the mercy of the weather.

Bliss said in a regular year they apply the fertilizer to the hay crops in the spring to encourage growth but since there has been very little rain, the fertilizer did not get the moisture that it needed resulting in very little hay.

Bliss said the effort was not wasted but that it feels like it right now because it cost them so much and there is nothing to show for it.

Bliss said the dry weather has made huge cracks in the ground.

“You could probably twist your ankles in some of them,” Bliss said. “They’re just that big.”

The cracks in the soil are a testament to the hardships that Bliss and other farmers in the district are facing as they cannot grow their hay to feed their livestock. Bliss said they have had to get creative in the ways to feed her animals and have had to dip into the hay bales that were supposed to last livestock through the winter.

However, selling the cattle comes with its own problems.

“You end up selling cattle, and you flood the market,” Bliss said. “You sell them low, then the rains will come and then we’re going to buy them back at probably three or four times the price. We rely on weather that we have no control over, and we tend to be price takers and not price setters.”

Bliss said because many farmers are experiencing a drought, the price of feed has gone up and on top of that, the cost of transportation can get very expensive.

Bliss said last year she made around 700 bales of hay but said this year she will be making 50 per cent of that, maybe even less, but it is still too soon to tell.

The lack of rain not only means low hay production but also no grass for the cows to pasture on. Bliss said they have to resort to feeding the animals hay that is meant to last the winter because pasture is running out.

“Right now, the rain is not really going to do much for our hay crop because it’s mature but we’re really counting on getting some rain so that we get some grass growing for our cows,” Bliss said.

Bliss said selling her cows or sending them to the slaughterhouse is her last resort and she is trying to find other ways to keep them around such as the possibility of finding another home for her cows until rain comes.

“We don’t want to [slaughter them], because you’re losing genetics,” Bliss said. “You work hard to get your herd built up and it’s actually heartbreaking because most people work really hard to build the herd to something and then you just got to get rid of them.

Bliss adds that letting go of healthy cows is much more detrimental to the farm as opposed to getting rid of them because they have a sore foot, not having a calf or being a poor performer.

“You’re just getting rid of them because you can’t afford to keep them because you have no feed,” Bliss said.

If the district does not start seeing significant rainfall soon, Bliss said they may have to resort to selling off cows and possibly other livestock in order to have enough feed for the winter as they are reaching a critical point.