In late 2017 we did our farm planning for 2018-2019 season. We planned the number of cattle we wanted to raise, what weight we wanted to sell them at and then planned the feed needed to raise these animals.
In the feed planning process, we used the number of cattle we currently had plus extras we were planning to purchase in 2018. We calculated that we would need to plant 81 acres of corn to get the right amount of silage to feed our cattle. As any farmer would tell you, you always have to be over prepared, so we planted 100 acres of corn in case there was crop damage from weather, a bad growing season or wildlife.
Our farm has dealt with crop damage from bears in the past and the ground we chose had not been planted in corn for five years as part of our strategy to minimize bear damage. With the challenging growing conditions of 2018, our crop yield was down a considerable amount from what we planned.
The cold nights and constant rain caused slow growing conditions throughout the whole season. To make matters worse, from July to August we had several bears find the field and move in. In total, the bears flattened 11 acres of corn.
At that time, we were not in the wildlife abatement plan at the time because the program required enrolled land to be open to public hunting. The land we used was rented and the owners did not want their land open to the public. Our hands were tied and all we could do was wait and see what the total damage amounted to.
As a young farmer, I have to balance the land I purchase with what I rent because of the high cost of buying farmland. Renting is an excellent opportunity for me to be able to grow the amount of feed I need with less investment up front. Over time, my ultimate goal is to increase the number of acres I own, but that will take time as I build up capital to make those purchases.
At the end of the growing season we ended up with the equivalent of 73 acres of corn silage – far less than the amount we planned for. In 2018-2019 we were forced to downsize the number of animals we purchased. Our barns can handle 120 animals, but we could only purchase 80 animals, due to lack of feed availability, this mean a major cut to our bottom line because the taxes, maintenance and loan payments do not change when we experience challenges like this.
This is the main reason that Act 82 (AKA the Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims program) in AB695 and SB628 is so important to me and farmers in my area. This legislation will allow farmers to trap problem bear on rented land without opening it to public use.
As a farmer, I want to be a good steward of the land. That means caring for our natural resources including the wildlife in our area. This legislation will allow farmers to better manage the bears in our area so each can co-habitat successfully.