NORTH BATTLEFORD — Charges have been laid against a North Battleford area producer after 308 cattle were seized by Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan in April.
Morris Tokaryk has been charged under the Criminal Code of Canada for causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to the animals, and for failure to provide adequate water, food and care.
He also faces two charges under the provincial Animal Protection Act for allowing animals to be in distress and failing to comply with a corrective action order. He is to appear in North Battleford court June 27.
APSS executive director Don Ferguson said officers executed a warrant near Whitkow between April 6 and 8 after a complaint in March.
“With the assistance of Blaine Lake RCMP the warrant culminated in the seizure of 308 cattle in distress,” he said. “The cattle were found to be in distress as a result of lack of access to sufficient feed, water and conditions that would significantly impair the animals’ health over time.”
Tokaryk denied his cattle were starved and neglected, telling a Global News reporter that dead animals on his property had possibly died from freezing, predators, or because of poor feed quality.
At the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association convention last week, Dr. Raj Premkumar, an animal health and welfare veterinarian with the provincial agriculture ministry, noted that laws have been strengthened in the last few years. Veterinarians are mandated to report concerns.
He said communication usually resolves most situations but the extreme cases do result in enforcement.
“Please seek help before it goes downhill,” he said.
Ferguson said APSS is working with producers in the wake of last year’s drought and feed shortages.
“We continue to see a number of issues where people put animals out to pasture too early, as well as a number of cases where producers were feeding their animals but never had their feed tested,” he said. “Once the feed was tested there was no way to combine the available feed that would provide adequate nutrition to the animals.”
In some cases, animals were being fed, but were still starving, he said.
“Feed testing and working with the local livestock and feed extension specialist to develop a ration that will maintain cattle through all life stages is critical right now,” he said, adding that APSS referrals to specialists have significantly increased.
Catherine Lang, a livestock and feed extension specialist based in Moose Jaw, said cattle are definitely on pasture sooner than the ideal time.
“There’s not a lot of feed left in the yard,” she said, adding that grains and other energy sources are helping to fill the nutrient need.
The forage quality in the pastures is good but there is not enough of it, and producers may run into a palatability issue when they try to offer supplemental feed.
“They’re going to want to eat the lush, green, growing grasses,” Lang said. Producers who had to put cattle out early should be moving them quite often to take the pressure off the grass and allow regrowth.
Another option is to creep feed calves, which will reduce their milk consumption and in turn the cows’ consumption of grass. She said calves who have been creep fed will wean a little earlier, too.
Poor grazing conditions are widespread throughout the province, she said, and particularly the whole west side.
“I don’t think anybody’s sitting in really good shape,” Lang said.
In the southeast, where moisture has been abundant, she said it’s still not too late to plant greenfeed.
As for water supplies, so far water sources seem to be in better condition than last year, particularly where spring runoff provided recharge. However, she said there are many low alkaline spots that are still not safe for cattle and even full dugouts might spell trouble.
“It’s still super important to be testing your sources so that you know that it’s good,” she said.
Lang added that going into this fall it will be important to feed test especially if it remains dry this summer and forages accumulate nitrates.
Producers who want more information on feed and water testing should call the Ag Knowledge Centre at 866-457-2377.