Farmers fear dry conditions could spell drought this summer
Published Monday, June 22, 2015 6:13PM MDT Last Updated Monday, June 22, 2015 6:32PM MDT
Moisture is much needed across Alberta after a dry spring and ranchers and farmers are taking stock of supplies in case the dry weather continues through the summer.
Those who make their living from the land are bracing for a drought and some say the signs are in the soil already.
“It’s been a pretty dry year and the pasture is definitely not growing like it should be and basically trying to find other means of feeding the horses,” said rancher Hamzie Rafih. “So dry that the grass is not growing, the hay is not growing and just having to find other ways of feeding the horses.
Rafih says he normally gets about 500 bales out of his pasture but this year he thinks 300 is more likely.
“We’re not going to get as many bales this year,” he said. “Basically it’s been too dry for too long for the hay crops so anything that isn’t under irrigation and that pretty much isn’t going to get anything. Might get a little bit but really for the price of what it costs to go and bale it up, it’s not really going to be worth it.”
“Last year I didn’t get as much hay as I needed to feed my cows so I ended up having to buy some and that was $100 a bale last year and they’re talking now that basically it’s going to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $200 a bale. As dry as it’s getting,” said farmer Steve Torgrimson. “One bale will feed one cow for one month so basically it’s costing $100 a month to go and feed. So six months of feeding to get the calf off, a new calf, so that’s about $600 you’ve got in feed. That’s not including any of your expenses for tractors or any of the rest of costs running anything.”
Environment Canada's data shows that less than 25 millimetres of rain has fallen near Hannah since April and precipitation in the whole area is less than 50 percent of normal.
A drier, warmer winter means the snow pack in the mountains is almost melted and hydrologist John Pomeroy says stream flows out of the mountains are much lower than normal.
“We’ve got about half the normal stream flow at the Bow River at Banff but when we look at the Bow River at its mouth in eastern Alberta, it’s down to one quarter,” said Pomeroy.
Pomeroy says a low stream flow and high demand for irrigation is a bad combination.
“While no long-term forecast is perfect the indications are more of this warm, dry weather to come,” he said. ““I think it’s probably prudent to say at this point we appear to be entering drought conditions. Though there’s probably some farmers in eastern Alberta who can say hey, were in a drought for sure.”
He says the drought in California appears to have reached us and the dry weather could easily continue into the fall and winter months.