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Alberta cattle farmer predicts rising beef prices amid escalating agricultural crisis

An Alberta cattle farmer believes that the recent droughts will keep raising the already high beef prices in the province.

As of Aug. 11, 15 Alberta communities have now declared agricultural emergencies. The reason for these emergencies is the continually dry weather, heavily impacting plant growth.

This impacted growth is currently affecting hay prices, as the demand for hay is rising throughout the dry season.

To offset the rising costs, beef prices have now risen to near-record highs.

One of the affected farmers is Daniel Doerkson, owner of the Gemstone Cattle Company in southwest Alberta. He believes that during this drought, cattle prices will continue to rise.

“We have to supplement the burnt-out grass with hay, and that forces us to raise cattle prices. Due to this, beef prices will rise. It’s like a domino effect. Cattle and beef prices are through the roof right now, and they’ll keep rising,” he said.

“When cattle prices are high, some producers can take that as an opportunity to keep raising prices for more profits.”

On July 12, 2023, the Special Areas Board in Alberta declared a state of agricultural disaster in various parts of the province, the second time an agricultural emergency has been declared in 20 years.

In a press release, Jordon Christianson, Chair of the Special Areas Board, described the dire state that Southern Alberta is currently facing.

“Dry conditions are not new to the Special Areas, but ongoing moisture deficiencies and hot temperatures have devastated crops and pasture throughout the region. Producers are struggling to find enough grass, water, and feed for their cattle. Farmers are facing widespread crop failures,” he said.

“Significant grasshopper infestations are making a very difficult situation worse in many parts of the Special Areas. Declaring an agricultural disaster is one way we can raise awareness of how serious this problem is with the province and with the federal government.”

A drought intensity map created by the federal government, showing the extreme drought conditions of southern Alberta, July 31, 2023. GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

Moving Forward

Doerkson predicts that if this drought continues, the cattle population in Alberta will significantly decrease.

“If this lasts for another year, we are going to see many farmers start to sell their cattle in order to make up for the loss of profits. If this drought becomes long-term, the market could show signs of being unsustainable,” he said

“Cattle populations throughout Canada would drop significantly, and the market in Alberta would take a hit.”

According to the Government of Alberta, hay prices have risen more than 30 per cent since 2021.

Doerkson said that hay prices will keep rising if the drought continues, and he believes that prices won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

“I’ve seen hay prices go up around fifty to one hundred dollars in the last year alone. That’s a 20 per cent increase at a minimum,” he said.

“It’s not good news for consumers, and until we start getting more rain, the prices will keep rising.”