CALGARY --  A national agriculture group says a program that helps farmers in Eastern Canada ship hay to drought-affected farmers on the Prairies has saved 17,000 head of cattle.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture says its Hay West program has shipped 5.6 million tonnes of livestock feed from farmers in Eastern Canada so far this year. A total of 75 farms in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have received the feed.

The CFA says it has an additional 100 million tonnes of hay available to be shipped, but doesn't have the money to cover the freight costs.

The federal government is pledging an additional $3 million to the program, after committing $1 million earlier this fall.

But the CFA says the need still outstrips supply and farmers are culling animals they can't afford to feed this winter.

The drought last summer on the Canadian Prairies was the worst in 60 years. Many pastures are in poor condition and livestock feed prices have skyrocketed.

The report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2021.