Agricultural sector weathers flood
Foothills: Limited impacts expected for crops, livestock
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 01:13 pm
Last month’s floods devastated homes and businesses, but thankfully the impact on foothills farmers and ranchers is anticipated to be minimal.
Agricultural officials say individual producers near river areas that flooded could be impacted, but the overall agricultural sector is expected to weather the storm.
Jeff Porter, MD of Foothills agricultural fieldman, said the full impact on agricultural producers in the foothills isn’t known yet, but it’s not expected to be significant.
“It’s not like a drought situation where it affects the agricultural economy in all the municipal districts,” he said. “This was isolated to producers that were along water courses. As an overall impact to agriculture, I don’t think it was a big hit.”
Porter said crops left covered by standing water will likely be killed and lower yields could be expected in other areas affected by flooding.
“In the stage the crops were in there should be minimal impact to yield,” he said.
Porter also said some ranchers have lost livestock to the flooding, but he doesn’t expect the numbers to be significant.
The MD has hired a company to remove animal carcasses along waterways left behind by the flood and the provincial government will cover the cost of this work.
Porter said they don’t have a count of the number of animals picked up so far.
The flood washed out most of the fences separating different pasture areas and, as a result, some cattle have moved from one area to join herds in another.
Porter said it will be up to ranchers to sort out animals from herds that mixed after fences were washed away.
“Usually it’s neighbours and they’ll either be doing it now or they’ll do it in the fall when they gather the animals for sale and they’ll cut out the ones that have different brands then theirs,” he said.
Foothills rancher Ralph Nelson said there will be some livestock losses, but he also doesn’t expect to see large numbers.
Three weeks after the flood, he was only missing one bull.
Nelson said most of his cattle were on high ground at the time of the flood, but some were near the Highwood River. He said the river rose quickly on his ranch just west of High River and any of his cattle that couldn’t be moved away from the river when the flood happened had to be left to fend for themselves.
“Most of our cattle were up high, they were two levels up from the flood, some of our cattle are out in the west country and they were fine,” he said.
The flood forced the temporary closure of the Cargill Foods Ltd. processing plant north of High River. The facility gets its water supply from the town and it had to shut down until water supplies were available once again.
The company redirected production to other facilities in Canada and the U.S. and the facility is now back up and operating.
Stuart Elson, Alberta Agriculture spokesperson, said the closure was only for a short period of time and didn’t have any long-term impact on the cattle industry.
He said the Province hasn’t yet calculated the damage to agriculture from the flood, but it’s not expected to be significant. The full extent of damage won’t be known until the fall when the harvest is complete, said Elson.
“Our agriculture industry certainly has not been impacted to the extent in communities such as High River and Calgary,” he said. “Our understanding is the flooding in agricultural areas was pretty much localized around the water-ways.”