Extreme cold challenges Alberta cattle producers — and their animals

·2 min read
Hawkwood pours feed into a trough. He has been busy keeping a close eye on the animals, feeding them, preventing their drinking water from freezing and providing some wind shelter. (Dave Gilson/CBC - image credit)
Hawkwood pours feed into a trough. He has been busy keeping a close eye on the animals, feeding them, preventing their drinking water from freezing and providing some wind shelter. (Dave Gilson/CBC - image credit)

The extreme cold weather across Alberta in recent weeks has meant some added challenges for many cattle producers and their animals.

The bulls on Greg Hawkwood's farm north of Calgary eat about 30 per cent more when it gets this cold because it gives them extra energy to withstand the harsh conditions.

Like many farmers, Hawkwood has been busy keeping a close eye on the animals, feeding them, preventing their drinking water from freezing and providing some wind shelter.

"We're determined that we're going to make our cattle safe and as comfortable as possible," he said.

Hawkwood expects to have enough food for the cattle this winter, but the drought last summer has meant smaller and more expensive feed supplies and uncertainty for some farmers.

"Now we're hoping that we get an early spring, because the feed stocks are down," he said.

"We will be fine as long as we don't keep getting a cold snap that goes way into February."

Hawkwood says the farming community pulls together at times like this.

"All the farmers are in contact with each other. We're all talking and saying, 'Hey, how's it going? What do you need?' If somebody's broke down, word spreads, everybody shows up. We're a community that's all in this together," he said.

Dave Gilson/CBC
Dave Gilson/CBC

Karin Schmid with Alberta Beef Producers says it's been a challenging year for many farmers, with some having had to downsize their herds in the face of dwindling feed supply and rising costs.

The animals can manage fine in the cold as long as they have the proper supports, such as windbreaks, and they are kept dry and well fed, Schmid said.

"Cattle are pretty good in these temperatures, as long as they have that extra energy feed," she said.

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