P.E.I. livestock farmers, agri-tourism businesses adjust to rising costs

·4 min read
At Green Gables Alpacas, the animals can only be sheared once a year for their fibre that is turned into yarn and sold. The farm offers tours to supplement the income in order to raise the alpacas year-round. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)
At Green Gables Alpacas, the animals can only be sheared once a year for their fibre that is turned into yarn and sold. The farm offers tours to supplement the income in order to raise the alpacas year-round. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)

Island livestock farmers and agri-tourism business operators say they are having to adjust to rising costs this summer.

P.E.I.'s inflation rate remains the highest in the country, according to this week's data. Rising fuel prices are impacting the agricultural supply chain, including the cost to feed animals.

"The cost to bring our product in is quite an exceptional difference, probably 20 to 30 per cent increase right across the board for everything," said Flory Sanderson who raises goats at Island Hill Farm in Hampshire.

"It costs more to maintain them from your hay, your straw and then my feed store, it's the shipping of it. It's getting it here ... and wage increase and all those other things."

Hard to recoup costs

Sanderson raises her goats until about the age of two, at which point they are sent to the abattoir and then on to the butcher — fees that have also increased — before bringing the meat back to sell at Island Hill.

She said some think of her business as a petting zoo because it is open to the public to interact with the goats, but it's still a production facility with expenses.

"I would describe it as a working farm, and we're an agri-tourism location where people get to come and learn about the food system of what I provide here for animals and we talk small-scale farming," she said.

"I'm a commercial dairy, so my milk is sold to another farm to a cheesemaker. "

Most livestock farmers have a variety of revenue streams because you can't have just one. — Janet Ogilvie, Green Gables Alpacas

Sanderson raised the admission price for barn visits by $5 this year, something she hopes the public can understand.

"Rising costs for farmers means we need to increase our prices, not for any other reason but survival. We have no choice."

Making (and buying) hay

One hay grower and distributor told CBC they've increased their price by 25 per cent because their fuel and fertilizer costs have doubled compared to 2021.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC
Nicola MacLeod/CBC

Sanderson said Island Hill goes through 900 square bales of hay each year and 100 of the larger round bales. That's in addition to other feed like pellets, costs that have also gone up.

But she said finding cheaper feed is not an option.

"I want the best product for my livestock. I love my livestock. So I want to make sure they have the best," she said. "Good quality is what you need to be sustainable."

There is also no compromising on feed quality for Janet Ogilvie of Green Gables Alapacas.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC
Nicola MacLeod/CBC

She imports her hay from Quebec by tractor-trailer. She hasn't placed her order yet for this year, but she expects the price to be up.

"The transportation fees in particular with respect to feed, including hay, have been significantly impacted in the past year," she said.

Olgilvie also purchases feed from her local co-op. And while she said that price has remained stable, there is now an added transportation fee of about $30 on each delivery.

"We have to make decisions prior to the season, starting with respect to what our rates are going to be. So we make some assumptions about what our expenses are going to be like," she said.

"Sometimes we get those assumptions correct and sometimes we get those wrong, and when we get them wrong, we have to absorb any increases."

Funding the farm

Like Sanderson, Ogilvie has turned to agri-tourism as a supplemental revenue stream. Visitors can book slots to tour the farm and feed the alpacas. This produces revenue needed to help raise the alpacas to be sheared for fibre that can be sold.

Alpacas can only be clipped once a year.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC
Nicola MacLeod/CBC

"Most livestock farmers have a variety of revenue streams because you can't have just one … this year's clip is probably about 300 pounds. Most of that will be processed into yarn, which I'll then sell in the shop," she said.

"This harvest here actually won't be ready and on my shelves until probably next year. So it's a long lead time to get to the product. I'm fortunate in that the demand for my fibre products is quite high and I know I'll sell out.

"I actually have to purchase product from other alpaca farmers across Canada to support demand in my shop."

Despite uncertainty, both farmers said they remain optimistic.

"We've seen an increase in tourism this year, which is wonderful. I'm really, really glad to see people returning," Ogilvie said. "I was cautiously optimistic, but it seems that things are returning to a little bit more normal, and I'm hopeful that that will continue."

As for Sanderson, she said she is inspired by the Island's agriculture community.

"The fact that keeps me going is that I support other people and they have jobs that they can come to work every day," she said.

"I think by learning where your food comes from, you have better respect for the cost of goods, and I think that's important."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting