Many Island farmers have spent the past several days wishing for rain, including those who say they're struggling to grow the necessary crops to feed their livestock.
David Francis, who co-owns Francis Farm in Lady Fane with his family, said the dry conditions are starting to resemble the drought the province experienced back in 2001. Yields on forage crops are down, which means feed for their livestock is drying up and expenses are rising.
"Was just talking to a neighbour of mine last night, I said to him, 'I think we're a lot drier than 2001,' and he said the very same thing. Our potatoes are really, really suffering this last week and I don't ever remember our pastures dried up this early," he said.
For livestock farmers, every day they wait for rain means a higher cost to feed their animals Francis said.
Due to a lack of rain, dairy farmers are finding it difficult to feed their cattle with home-grown feed, forcing them to purchase and use feed meant for winter storage earlier than usual.
He said he's currently spending an extra $400 each day on feed because his field cannot grow enough for the year and he's now getting concerned about keeping his cattle fed in the colder months. He said he hasn't been able to cut his forage crop for a second time this year due to the hot, dry weather.
Francis said if conditions don't improve he may have to sell off some of his livestock.
"To see your crops suffering like that, it does, it does take a toll on you."
Supplies for feed dwindling
Ron Maynard, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture said it's a problem being felt by farmers across the province.
He said his forage crops are down about 40 per cent compared to last year. Maynard said during a typical year he grows more feed than he needs for his own dairy farm and sells extra feed to other farmers for winter storage. But this year he doesn't anticipate having any additional feed left to sell.
Maynard said as demand for feed increases the supply for feed dwindles, which is causing prices to rise. He said even prices for straw bedding have increased this season by about 50 per cent.
"Well with this season, I'm almost certain it's affecting the dairy production quite dramatically and the amount of forage that people are going to have for winter-stored feed. It's going to mean that some people may have to cut back on their stock if they can't find feed," said Maynard.
He said the heat is having an effect on the cows as well.
"Our production is down," he said. "And that appears to be over all of Prince Edward Island."
'You can see dust'
Community pastures are starting to feel the heat as well. Kelly's Cross Community Pasture has requested farmers take some of their cattle back.
Approximately 650 cattle roam the pasture, eating the feed that grows there. This year, the pasture hasn't produced enough.
"Due to the dry conditions, we've notified all of our patrons that half of their cattle have to go home," said Brian Parker, who is a dairy farmer and chair of the community pasture.
He said the organization will review the situation throughout the week and depending on whether conditions improve, farmers may be asked to remove all of their cows from the field.
"Our pastures are burned up and there's no re-growth and it's when the cows walk across you can see dust. Dust coming up in the air," said Parker.
Parker said this the first time the group has had to ask farmers to take animals off the pasture this early in the season.
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