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B.C. provides relief for ranchers as drought causes hay scarcity

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Tuesday’s damp weather was a rare respite for Comox Valley cattle rancher Brad Chappell.

This summer's drought conditions have forced him to buy feed for his herd.

Normally this time of year his cattle could rely on grazing upon grass at his ranch, or he'd be able to grow enough hay himself to feed his cattle.

Neither option is doable this year because of bone-dry conditions.

“This is the toughest year for sure that we’ve seen,” said Chappell on Tuesday

The hot, dry weather has decimated hay stocks across Western Canada, making it hard for ranchers to find hay to feed their animals.

On Tuesday, the province announced it’s pairing up hay producers with ranchers in what it called a dating service of sorts.

“The program will help those who need hay by sourcing what’s available and matching them with sellers,” said B.C. Agriculture Minister Pam Alexis.

The scarcity of hay has also made it more expensive. Much of what's available is coming from the United States -- another tough truth the province is hoping to address. It persuaded Ottawa to provide more access to cash advances for struggling ranchers.

“Some producers may have immediate cash-flow challenges given the feed footages and higher than normal prices of feed,” said Alexis.

A few weeks ago, Chappell considered culling his herd. He’s since decided to bite the bullet and pay big prices for hay to feed his cattle.

He calls Tuesday’s announcements positive move, creating a streamlined system for getting hay to ranchers, but knows he's still very vulnerable to the weather.

“You know, we’ll hope for the best, that’s really all I can do,” said Chappell

With his hardest ranching year in three decades, he’s hoping August brings wetter, cooler weather.

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