Help available for ranchers affected by drought, increased hay prices

By: Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Ranchers in areas of Alberta that have been affected by the drought and increased hay prices may qualify for an assistance program created to offset costs associated with breeding herds.

“Both the provincial and federal governments saw the challenges ranchers were facing with the drought,” says AFSC Livestock Price Insurance Product owner Brenda Hagen.

“They acted early to address the plight and created a program to assistant in maintaining the breeding herd.”

With hay prices skyrocketing last fall as a result of a drought-stricken province, ranchers are now seeing round bales being sold for well over $200 each, making it cost prohibitive to purchase adequate amounts of feed for their livestock. With the drought predicted to extend well into 2024, with limited snowfall in the majority of the province, the Canada-Alberta Drought Livestock Assistance Initiative has now been expanded to help producers maintain their breeding stock.

“This program will help with some of the extraordinary costs accrued,” says Hagen. “The program has now been expanded to include an additional 23 regions in the province and the application deadline has been extended to Feb. 22 at midnight.”

Funding for the joint AgriRecovery initiative is provided through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Ranchers who are interested in the program can visit the AFSC website at, or phone their local AFSC office to receive help in their application.

Those producers with an active AFSC Connect account can go online to being the application process on their own.

“Producers have to meet some criteria and live within select areas to qualify,” says Hagen. “They have to have a minimum of 15 breeding animals. I can commit the provincial government is keeping an eye on drought conditions for 2024.”

Livestock producers in eligible regions who altered their grazing practices for more than 21 days as a result of drought conditions can apply for the assistance to help cover losses incurred to maintain female breeding animals. These animals can include cattle, bison, horses, elk, sheep, goats, alpacas, yak, musk ox, deer, water buffalo, and llamas.

“This is a small piece of a part of a sustainability puzzle,” says Hagen. “We know this won’t cover all the costs, but it may help to put some of the extra expenses back into producers’ hands.”

Applicants in approved zones can qualify for payments of up to $150 per head. Hagen says this expansion also gives producers who already were eligible the opportunity to apply, if they haven’t yet done so.