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More supports come to cattle producers affected by drought

Millions earmarked through federal-provincial disaster relief framework , AgriRecovery program.
SA-Cattle Branding 01 web
Calves wait during a cattle branding near Black Diamond on May 22.

Up to $340 million in additional support is coming to local livestock producers affected by the drought last year.

The funds are meant to help with exorbitant feed costs. Record high temperatures and dry weather reduced grazing capacity and yield, creating feed shortages.  

“The first part is the cost of feeding cows through the drought,” said Melanie Wowk, Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) chair.

“(AgriRecovery) asked for Dec. 31 cow and bred heifer inventory numbers, and payments are based on that and the increased amount of winter feeding time it caused,” explained Wowk. Due to the drought, cattle were started either earlier than normal on their winter feed or left on the pasture longer than usual, affecting pasture quality next year.

Producers can expect about $106 per head … if they qualify.

The second portion of the program is related to receipted expenses, said Wowk.

According to the ABP website, collected receipts or recorded expenses can include temporary water provisions, temporary fencing, transportation costs related to hauling feed, water or animals.

Wowk said that producers incurred extra costs such as fencing after being forced to move livestock into areas that normally wouldn’t be grazed.

“Just because you apply doesn't mean you're going to get paid out for everything, and it's about 70 per cent of the total expense that they (AgriRecovery) will cover,” she said.

While the additional funds will help, Wowk believes many will not see payments until March or April.

“We (ABP) are hoping to try and move forward with the government to maybe trigger these types of programs a little bit faster in the future.”

Funding for the relief is coming from the Canada-Alberta Livestock Feed Assistance AgriRecovery initiative.

The first phase of the feed assistance initiative was open from Sept. 7 to Nov. 7, which saw 14,740 applications and paid out $180 million to producers.

Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) encourages producers to apply online through AFSC Connect on their website or download the PDF file available on the AFSC website.

The ABP says on their website that “the online application can immediately identify errors and missing information, significantly decreasing the time to payment.”

The deadline to apply for phase two is Jan. 31, and producers did not have to apply for phase 1 to qualify for phase 2.

The ABP suggests producers prepare by reviewing the Q&A section on the AFSC website.

Beekeepers will also be eligible for compensation under the second phase of AgriRecovery. Up to 70 per cent of extraordinary costs associated with feed to prepare hives for winter with a maximum of $7.5 per hive/colony.  

Issues ongoing

Producers continue to face issues related to last year's drought.

“A lot of us sold a lot of cows out of our herds this year because of the lack of feed, and as a result, prices dropped to almost half of what they were in the spring,” said Wowk.

“That income was reduced significantly.”

The cold weather this winter is also causing problems.

“You absolutely have to feed livestock more through those temperatures, as well they need some bedding, and they need some shelter from the wind, so those are increased costs as well,” explained Wowk.

A sliver of light in the woes of cattle producers comes with the freshly arrived snow.

“The dump of snow that we've gotten, hallelujah,” said Wowk.

“That is just amazing to see, and I know the Peace region got it this past week, but boy oh boy, we sure need it and as difficult as it can make things, it's also a real blessing.”

AgriRecovery is a federal-provincial disaster relief framework meant to help producers with extraordinary costs due to natural disasters.

The ABP has changed their producer meetings to January and will be having a meeting with Peace region producers in Fairview on Jan. 26 to hear their opinions.

The ABP asks that producers register online before attending.