WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Canadian farmers say they are just days away from running out of feed for cattle, due to severe drought last summer damaging crops needed to fatten them over winter and transportation bottlenecks.
The drought devastated Prairie pastures and has now forced feedlots in Alberta, the main cattle-producing province, to buy more U.S. corn. Moving it north of the border is difficult and costly, however.
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd (CP.TO), the main corn shipper to Western Canada, has struggled to keep up with demand during frigid weather. COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers threaten to further disrupt the supply chain.
The feed shortage could depress profits for feedlots, the farms that raise cattle to slaughter weight, but it may not raise retail beef prices as feedlots have incentive to sell their cattle to packers as quickly as possible, increasing meat supply, said Brian Perillat, senior analyst at CanFax.
Jacob Bueckert, owner of a 20,000-head feedlot near Warner, Alberta, estimates that he has five days’ supply of feed on hand, when he normally has 14-30 days’ worth.
“We don’t have any buffer. It’s scary,” he said, adding that he is frustrated by delayed rail shipments.
“Excuses aren’t going to feed the cattle.”
Many feedlot owners are getting by with contributions from neighbors who have enough feed, Bueckert said. But it is not easy to find surplus grain – feedlots are fuller than usual after the drought led ranchers to sell more cattle to feedlots last fall, he said.