Drought, high feed prices force cash-strapped Eastern Ontario ranchers farmers to ponder livestock sell-offs
By PETER HENDERSON, The Ottawa Citizen August 7, 2012 9:28 PM
OTTAWA — Owning a horse ranch is a labour of love for Ben Jardine, but the drought that’s gripped Eastern Ontario for months might mean the end of his passion project.
Without fresh grass to feed his livestock, Jardine has had to buy bales of hay — currently selling at nearly triple their normal price — to feed his 48 horses and ponies as well as an assortment of donkeys, sheep, and llamas.
But he can’t maintain that level of spending indefinitely, he said, and the family is looking to downsize its herd by at least 20 animals, or by nearly half.
“It’s very emotional, both for my wife and myself,” he said. “But it’s the reality now, to be able to survive as a small business this summer.”
Jardine explained his plight to Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Mark Wales on Tuesday afternoon as Wales toured the area to get a first-hand look at the damage from one of the driest summers in memory.
Yields for most crops, not just hay, are down dramatically, and even a late-summer monsoon would be too little to save many farmers’ fields. Corn especially is too far gone in most cases, illustrated by a shrivelled cob of the staple crop that Wales held in his hand
“People are really having to figure out how many animals can they feed through the winter, how can they afford to do that,” he said.
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