Industry warns of issues facing B.C.’s dairy industry after heatwave and flooding

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ABBOTSFORD, BC – As farmers clean up after a series of storms that hit southern British Columbia, an industry official and operator say some will be forced out of the industry as as the costs pile up.

ABBOTSFORD, BC – As farmers clean up after a series of storms that hit southern British Columbia, an industry official and operator say some will be forced out of the industry as as the costs pile up.

A series of “atmospheric rivers” in mid-November forced thousands of people from their homes and left at least four dead.

Gary Baars, who owns a dairy farm in the Sumas area of ​​Abbotsford, B.C., said he decided to remove his cows from his property soon after a cousin called him about his own. flood experience.

At the time, his property was dry and Baars said passers-by didn’t care about his preventative measure.

That laughter quickly turned into pleas for help, with Baars claiming he was answering up to 100 calls an hour from farmers trying to save their livestock as water levels rose.

All but one of his cows survived the possible flooding.

However, Baars said other farmers already face a difficult future as many have little food for their animals due to BC’s record summer heat waves.

That, combined with flooding and inflation, squeezed profit margins, Baars said.

“Hay prices are high everywhere,” he said. “I kept thinking it was a bit of a bubble, but between inflation, rising fertilizer and fuel prices and a lack of supplies, there is going to be a serious shortage of food. for animals. “

Baars said many players in the dairy industry have a lot of debt and the past year has been difficult for farmers.

“I could definitely see some people say, ‘You know what, I’m rich in equity and poor in cash and now is the right time to get out of this racket,'” he said.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said 628,000 chickens, 420 dairy cattle and around 12,000 pigs have died on Sumas Grassland after historic flooding left some properties two and a half meters underwater .

More than 6,000 dairy cows have been transported from affected farms to others safe from the floods.

Sarah Sache, vice president of the BC Dairy Association, said Baars’ concern is one that her group is monitoring.

“It will be a turning point for some farms if they continue in the industry,” she said.

It will likely depend on the stage of their farmers’ careers to determine if they continue, Sache said.

Finding suitable feed for livestock will also have a big impact on the livelihoods of farmers, she said.

She noted that farmers in the Sumas Grassland had low supplies of feed and that many of their supplies had been damaged by the floods.

“Obtaining the quality food that these farmers would have provided and finding sources of it will be difficult,” she said. “The feed issue is going to be a big challenge across the industry.”

Later Friday, British Columbia’s Minister of Agriculture and her federal counterpart visit a poultry farm that has been flooded and was scheduled to deal with recovery and reconstruction efforts.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 10, 2021.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

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