Drought spurs more cattle to auction in Kamloops

Ranchers running out of grass and water responding to summer’s drought by bringing cattle to market early

By Cam Fortems

Kamloops This Week

Ranchers running out of grass and water are responding to this summer’s drought by bringing cattle to market early, rather than betting that the weather will turn.

More than double the number of cattle went through auction this week at the B.C. Livestock Producers Co-operative Association in Kamloops compared to the same week last year.

“I’ve got some guys running out of pasture,” said auctioneer Wayne Jordan.

“For others, drinking water for livestock is an issue.”

The federal government announced measures this summer encouraging ranchers to reduce their cattle numbers in wake of the drought across Western Canada.

The program also allows ranchers to move some of the resulting income to next year.

Barriere rancher Ed Salle said the dry conditions are affecting all operations.

“In our area of the North Thompson, it’s a little less dry. It’s a wait and see.”

If conditions don’t improve, Salle said many ranchers will bring cattle to market early or choose not to hold animals over winter due to shortages of feed.

“The problem is, you can’t find feed even if you have they money to buy it,” Salle said.

Bringing cattle to market in summer rather than fall will result in lighter weight and, therefore, less revenue for ranchers.

Offsetting that reality is prices that continue to climb.

Jordan said prices given to ranchers by cattle buyers, who will send animals to Alberta feedlots and then to slaughterhouses, are up roughly 20 per cent over 2014 — a record-setting year itself.

“Prices are still strong,” Jordan said. “Strength in the U.S. dollar really helps.”