Ranchers impacted by the summer’s wildfires are on “pins and needles” waiting for their first AgriRecovery cheques from the government, Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association president Cordy Cox said Wednesday.
In August, the government announced a $20-million Canada-British Columbia Wildfires Recovery Initiative to help B.C. ranchers and farmers rebuild their livelihoods.
“The AgriRecovery program for those affected by the wildfires is huge and it will help go a long ways to helping ranchers stay in business for years to come,” Cox said.
Adjusters have visited ranchers, 100 kilometres of essential livestock fencing has been replaced, but costs are mounting for ranchers that are having to order hay and pay for freight.
“The going rate for trucking is $120 an hour and a load of hay runs from $5,000 to $6,000,” Cox explained.
“Some ranchers need to order 30 loads so it adds up pretty quickly.”
Whether a ranch lost hay in the stack yard, lost seed or cows ate up the hay fields when they were brought home to the pasture because they couldn’t be out on the range during the wildfires, a hay shortage was something ranchers knew they were facing.
Hay shortages in Western Canada are also an issue this fall, she added.
“In the Nechako area a large winter kill last year killed off a lot of their alfalfa so they don’t have the hay supplies they that normally have and they usually supply a lot of hay to the Cariboo Chilcotin.”
There was some hay donated directly to ranchers from groups in Alberta and Chetwynd that was urgently needed and appreciated.
“It tied people over and pulled them through the end of the fire season,” Cox said.
Cattle losses were not near what was predicted during the wildfires, Cox said, but noted there are lower pregnancy rates than normal due to the lack of proper movement of cows and bulls.
On a positive note, cattle prices are good and have been holding and many ranchers have cash at hand from selling calves.
One of those local ranchers is Travis Redl, who was at the BC Livestock Producers Nov. 15 calf sale in Williams Lake, with 140 beef booster calves up for bid.
Travis helps run the family-owned ranch that his grandpa Ed Redl purchased in 1971 at Miocene, along with his wife, Connie-Lynn, and his parents, Barrie and Marg Redl.
“The prices are really good,” Travis said as he tallied up the results.
It was a good end to a day spent hauling cows, he added.
Their ranch was in an evacuation zone for several weeks in the summer so Connie-Lynn and their three children left to stay in nearby Horsefly, with Travis coming back to the ranch regularly to check in.
“We lost quite a bit of feed because we chose not to cut and bail during the evacuation, but we really lucked out that nothing was burned,” he said.
“We cut what was on the ground to get it out of the field in case the fire did come so it wouldn’t add fuel.”
Several years ago Redl Ranch began to diversify by raising grass-fed beef, something Cox said has helped the ranch develop a niche in the Lower Mainland.
Barrie travels with sides and quarters to farmer’s markets from May until Halloween, Travis said.
“It’s a lot of work, but it pays off,” he added.
There were 54 producers selling on Wednesday in Williams Lake for a total of 2,574 head of cattle.
Read More: Wildfire recovery for ranchers