Alberta ranchers are encouraged to take steps now to prepare their herds for a lean fall and winter in many parts of the province. Consecutive years of below average rainfall means many farmers are only harvesting 25% of their normal hay crop, particularly in southern Alberta, leading to an overall feed shortage.
“We’ve only seen only 45 to 50% of normal rainfall,” said Barry Yaremcio, beef nutrition specialist with Alberta Agriculture.
As producers contemplate on how to get through the winter with less feed than normal, they are encouraged to ensure their cattle are at their proper weight now.
“The biggest thing is, keep your cows in good condition before the cold weather hits,” said Yaremcio. He points out cattle will require even more hay in the winter just to keep them warm.
There are a number of ways to add extra weight now.
“Feeding three, four, five pounds of grain a day, or five, six pounds of grain every second day, along with a little bit of extra protein supplements, the cheapest source right now being peas, that’s the best way to get cows back up into shape before winter hits.”
The Alberta SPCA is anticipating we will receive additional calls this winter from neighbours or other residents concerned herds are not being fed enough. Peace Officer Ryan Butterwick encourages people to call if they have any doubts.
“So if the cows are thin where you think they’re thin, give us a call.”
The Alberta SPCA will inspect the animals and check the feed, and if improvements are needed, Peace Officers will make recommendations. Seizing animals is a last resort.
“We seize the animals when there’s no compliance, no effort made to rectify the situation,” said Butterwick.
However, underfeeding cattle due to a feed shortage is not acceptable and could lead to charges of allowing an animal to be in distress under the Animal Protection Act.
“If you’re finding that you can’t afford to have your livestock, or any animal, it’s better to get rid of them before they get to a compromised state,” Butterwick said.
Both the Alberta SPCA and Alberta Agriculture encourage ranchers to get their feed tested for quality to ensure they know exactly how much nutrition their livestock are receiving.
“Know what you’re doing,” said Yaremcio. “With limited feed supplies, you have to be efficient feeding with what you have.”
Ranchers can seek advice on feed and nutrition options for their cattle by calling Alberta Agriculture at 310-FARM (3276).
Anyone with concerns about livestock in distress is asked to call the Alberta SPCA Animal Protection Services at 1-800-455-9003.