Alta. county calls disaster as storms kill calves

What began as a small pilot project to gather deadstock in southern Alberta’s Cardston County in collection bins is running over with calves following storms that led the county to declare a disaster.

Normally, the county said in a release Monday, its deadstock removal pilot project would see bins receive three or four dead calves a week.

Now, however, the bins need to be emptied twice a week, each time removing 15 to 20 calves, the county said.

Calves “were forced to endure the onslaught of heavy rains, snow, and dropping temperature all pushed by the powerful winds of southern Alberta,” the county said, noting its producers are reporting losses of 10-15 per cent of their calf crops.

According to Lethbridge Herald writer Ric Swihart, a pair of storms bearing large amounts of snow and pelting winds over the previous two weeks have led to substantial losses for over 100 producers southeast of Cardston, about 75 km southwest of Lethbridge.

Swihart quoted Tim Romanow, the county’s rural extension specialist, as saying three major ranches southeast of Cardston, in the Del Bonita area, are expected to have lost over 100 animals each, and the full cost of the losses likely won’t be tallied for up to a couple of months.

Previous heavy rains soaked the calves, followed by snow and cold and wind which crowded herds into fences or into low spots in fields or dugouts, Swihart wrote.

The county, in its release, quoted one local producer estimating losses of 50-60 calves and expecting more.

Making matters worse, the county said, are the aggravation of medical issues such as calf scours due to the cold, wet muddy conditions that have followed.

“Most winter feed supplies have been consumed, and producers are searching for additional forage until warmer weather can help spring pastures catch up.”

Most producers would acknowledge that a 10-15 per cent loss in the calf crop is the breaking point between a profitable and unsuccessful year, the county said.

“It is to this extent that Cardston County has declared a disaster within its county to help the local producers.”

Reports from the region haven’t yet said whether provincial or federal governments will follow through on Cardston County’s declaration, which in certain circumstances would allow aid to flow where needed.

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