Cattle head to auction markets as Manitoba pastures dry up


By Robert Arnason, The Western Producer (Canada)

July 15, 2021


The Ashern Auction Mart doesn’t normally hold sales in the summer.


That’s because cows and calves are on pasture and producers don’t have a need to market their cattle.


But in early July, the auction market, about 180 kilometres north of Winnipeg, held a sale “due to the drought,” its website says.


On July 7, 949 cattle were up for sale in Ashern: 539 feeder cattle and 386 slaughter cattle.


“It’s been years and years since we had a mid-July sale,” said Ray Bittner, an auction mart director and farmer from Moosehorn, which is north of Ashern, in the province’s Interlake region.


Cattle ranchers in the Interlake and Westlake regions of Manitoba are selling cattle because pastures and hayland in the province are dead or dying. Since last summer, below normal rain and snow has fallen on southern Manitoba.


“If you drive down the roads around here, there are a lot of pastures that are orange,” said Bittner, a former livestock specialist with Manitoba Agriculture who grows crops and raises about 100 head of beef cows. “After the heat dome (with 37 C temperatures in early July), the grass got so stressed it turned orange.”


Things are so bad that the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent, south of Ashern, declared an agricultural disaster July 6. Grasshoppers and the lack of rainfall have severely damaged the forage and annual crops in the RM.


Around Moosehorn, there are few options for harvesting forage this summer.


The alfalfa and native hay are in poor shape...