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Feed shortage forcing Pinto Valley Ranch to sell horses


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This story is related to the current drought in Ontario.  I noticed that the operator of this ranch is also in the CF, so thought it might be of interest here.  Looks like a nice place, actually - I may pop by for a ride soon.   

By Peter Henderson, The Ottawa Citizen.
Reproduced under the Fair Dealings provision of the Copyright Act.

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.

Even farmers who grow Christmas trees or Halloween pumpkins have been hit by the drought, Wales said, and maple syrup harvesters could face problems as some of their trees have begun to dry up and lose their leaves months early.

Many Eastern Ontario farmers have been forced to sell livestock because of high food prices. But the sell-off has cratered the market for cattle prices, causing even more pressure on livestock farmers in the region as they struggle to provide adequate feed and water for their flocks.

“Not only are farmers having trouble feeding what they have, if they go to downsize their herd then they’re selling into a declining market,” Wales said.

The only big buyers right now, Wales said, are meat producers and processors.

Jardine is a master corporal in the Canadian Forces, and working the Pinto Valley Ranch — inherited from his father-in-law — is what he and his wife do on evenings and weekends.

The pair rent horses and lead trail rides for tourists, and they also do good business running an on-site restaurant that caters to locals with its drive-up tractor parking.

Government regulation, as well as the drought, has made business increasingly difficult, Jardine said.

“Small business guys wonder why they even do it anymore, and that’s where we’re at,” he said.

The tour comes just a few days after a meeting between the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and provincial Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin to discuss the next five years of agricultural programming for farmers under the Growing Forward II agreement.

The OFA and many other farm groups have expressed opposition to proposed cuts in spending on farm support programs.

Wales is expected to tour other farms in Eastern Ontario, particularly the hard-hit Renfrew County, over the next week.



© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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