Canadian ranchers are calling for help as rising waters in Lake Manitoba displace thousands of cattle as well as flood homes, cottages, pastures and businesses. Pasture, hay, grain and places to hold cattle for the short and the long term are urgently needed, according to the Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP), which is coordinating assistance efforts.
Located northwest of Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba reaches about 120 miles north to south. Producers maintain an estimated 70,000 head of cattle around the lake's perimeter. Ranching there has flourished since a concrete control dam was built in 1961 across its northern outlet.
The operating level of Lake Manitoba normally is 810.5'- 812.5' above sea level, according to the Manitoba Water Stewardship Board. But, as of last Friday, May 20, it had reached 815'.
"My land right now is 90% underwater," said Tom Teichroeb, who with his wife, Michelle, manages 375 cow-calf pairs, plus yearlings. They started evacuating cattle in early May to pastures about 40 miles west of their home at Langruth. (Tom is herding cattle in the photo.)
"My older group of calves, about 130 in the group, had to swim across the drainage channel. I couldn't get my horse across it, so I had to swim my quad (ATV) across. That was almost three weeks ago; now, it's still coming up and you wouldn't be able to get calves across."
Lake Manitoba is expected to remain flooded until the end of July. Cattle may be able to return for winter, but no hay will be harvested locally in 2011.
Overland flooding on several smaller Manitoba lakes is putting other producers at risk this year, too, says Audrey Treichel, MBP communications director.
"It's a far-reaching problem," she explains. "These water levels won't come down until December, and the pastureland will be ruined. It will be three years of trouble ahead, and it could possibly bust those people."
Treichel estimates that at least 20,000, and possibly 100,000 head, will be evacuated. As of May 10, when a provincial livestock emergency was declared, the government opened up crown lands and wildlife refuges for emergency grazing.
For more information, visit www.mcpa.net. If you know of any pastureland available for summer use, call the Teulon GO Centre at 204-886-2696 or Manitoba Beef Producers office at 204-772-4542 or 800-772-0458. To view additional photos, taken by Michelle Teichroeb, visit hayandforage.com.