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'Never seen it like this': Manitoba cattle ranchers consider culling herds as drought ruins feed


Manitoba cattle farmers are reaching a breaking point after extreme drought and an influx of grasshoppers ruined their crops and pastures.

The Strick Farm has been in the family for generations, but it is facing new challenges this year.

"Grasshoppers have come through and cleaned out for us. The pastures are just as bad," said Gord Strick, who runs the farm. "Everything has browned off. There's no feed, there's no pasture."

Strick's fields are so burnt, even the grasshoppers are starting to starve, not to mention his cattle. It's something he said he has never dealt with in his decades on the farm.

"The guys that are super old have never seen it like this. The sloughs are dry. The dugouts are dry. Lots of guys are drilling new wells in their pastures," said Strick.

Strick expects to get 100 bales of hay by the end of the year, a far cry from the 1,000 bales he usually needs for winter.

While the Interlake region may be the worst, much of the province is facing drought conditions, including Melissa Atchison's farm near Souris, Man.

"In our area it looks green, but when you look, the leaves are all burnt off the bottom. I suspect after this week, our cereal crop will be rather burnt up and dry," Atchison said.

On top of ranching, Atchison is the District 6 director for Manitoba Beef Producers. She said cattle farmers could use a lot of assistance right now.

In a statement to CTV News, Manitoba's new Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler said, "Minister Pedersen and department officials recently met with stakeholder groups to seek their input on a plan of how the province may be of additional assistance."

The dry weather in western Canada has prompted the federal government to call on provinces to match Ag rescue dollars.

In response, the Agriculture Minister said, "I look forward to continuing those discussions and hope to have more to say in the coming days."

But aid might come too late for many ranchers.

Ashern Auction Mart has already held its first auction this year, the earliest it's ever been.

"A number of them are needing to liquidate animals. At this point, there are many, certainly the majority, of pastures have nothing," said Ray Bittner, the auction mart's director. "The cows are either going to have to go or be fed something."

Bittner calls this year unprecedented and said it's leaving producers with a lot of tough decisions.

After years of drought with no sign of relief, Gord Strick's son Steve is left pondering what the future of the farm he's poised to take over will be.

"It comes to a point where you think is it even realistic to keep on going," said Steve. "Unfortunately, I think a lot of guys are going to be asking the same question."

Gord Strick said he'll at least have to cull part of his herd and has been talking to his son about if they should get rid of them altogether. Top Stories

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