Cattle Sell-off Unprecedented . . . as Ranchers, Farmers Face Punishing Drought

Cattle are being moved off local ranches in record numbers as farmers and ranchers are fighting a drought that just won’t end.

Because of the lack of rain there is not enough grass for feed in the area to meet demand.

“Anyone that thinks this isn’t serious . . . they’re dead wrong” says Jerry Hewson of Provost Livestock Exchange.

The News caught up with Hewson who was among other staff out back at the auction market sorting cattle for the next day’s sale.

“It’s as big sell-off as I’ve ever seen” says the cattle man who has been working with animals since he was 18 years old.
He says that last year was bad enough with the drought and paints a grim picture when he predicts that half the herds in the country will be lost and that it is happening right now. Some ranches in a 50 to 100 mile radius of Provost are selling entire herds, he points out

Hewson spent the day before that on the phone for four hours making arrangements with people who wanted to sell their cattle—some of them entire herds. And the day before that the auctioneer spent six hours receiving calls from people. They don’t want to sell—they have to, Hewson says.

The massive sell-off is “going to change the agricultural society” he predicts and adds that some ranchers are selling out and they won’t be back because of their age.

Slaughter cows are selling “up to four to five times the volume what would normally sell” and this has been going on for 10 months now, says the 50 year old man.

The day before the Friday sale , staff were bracing for 850 cow and calf pairs (normally there would be zero sold at this time of year), 1100 feeder cattle (usually there would be 200 now), 400 butcher cows (a normal run would be 100 to 150 this time of year—in addition to 300 calves on the auction block (normally the number for this time of year would be zero).

Many don’t see any end to the situation in sight since “all crops are write-offs.”

Most of the cattle going through the auction market here on Friday were destined to Manitoba where there is some feed available. In the meantime Hewson says they may eventually have to buy feed and have it trucked in to the grounds in town.

It’s a very tough, serious situation for farmers” and he says next year could be tough as well.

The upheaval in the marketplace is expected to affect the cost of wheat and beef products—and says Hewson a year down the road consumers can look for large price increases.

In the meantime herds are being scaled back and many producers won’t have money to spend. “When the factory (ranch) is gone, the process to make money is basically gone.”

Hewson was asked if he had ever seen a drought like this: “No. Never.”

Print Version and pictures in July 24 Edition of The Provost News
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Drought Committee Member Pleased With Gov’t. Program
• $324-million Farm Income Assistance

One of the members of a province-wide drought committee, Jack Roworth of Czar says that he is pleased with a recent announcement by the Alberta government that will see immediate assistance to farmers and ranchers because of a drought.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Shirley McClellan said the $324 million Farm Income Assistance Program (FIAP) funding responds to disastrous agricultural conditions.

Roworth, who ranches five miles south of Czar told The News in an interview that the drought is affecting them “drastically.” They are trying to move cattle around to different pastures “although grasshoppers have taken grass that we had saved.”

Rest of story in July 24 edition of The Provost News
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Provost Wins Provincial Bantam Baseball Championships

by Ted McInnis
The Provost Ko-Gan Shooters baseball team won first place in bantam provincial championships at Rocky Mountain House over the weekend.

Rest of story and picture in July 24 edition of The Provost News
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Highway 13 Blocked Following Rollover
Story and Picture in July 24 edition of The Provost News
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Wilful Damage of Public Property Discovered
Story and Picture in July 24 edition of The Provost News
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Street Spokesman
We asked: "What Public Facility Would You Like To See In Provost?".
Check out the July 24 edition of The Provost News for the answers.
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