Livestock compensation slows to trickle
An increasing number of farmers in Ontario are having difficulty getting compensation for livestock killed by coyotes and other predators. Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett raised the issue in the legislature last week. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER
Farmers are encountering mounting resistance from the province when it comes to livestock predation claims.
Some producers have gone out of business now that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is rejecting 20 per cent of claims.
Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett, the Progressive Conservatives’ agriculture critic at Queen’s Park, raised the issue in the legislature last week.
“One in five claims for predation kills are rejected by your staff,” Barrett told Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal on Dec. 4.
“They don’t visit the scene, they’re not on the ground, even though you advocate for evidence-based decision-making. It has left livestock owners out in the cold. We hear of cases where a lamb or calf has been carted off by coyotes. There’s no evidence. There’s no blood. There’s no carcass.
“Minister, I want to pin this down: Will you commit to creating a better system to compensate for predator kills? For example, when a coyote eats the evidence?”
Leal replied that he is aware of the problem and is looking into better ways of administering the program.
“When we have a program in place that is not working and is not meeting expectations, we commence a review,” Leal said. “That is the responsible way to conduct public policy in the province of Ontario.”
The Livestock, Poultry and Honey Bee Protection Act entitles farmers to compensation when dogs or wildlife kill their animals.
Under this program, municipalities appoint inspectors to investigate livestock kills and file a report. Municipalities file these reports with the Ministry of Agriculture, which is responsible for providing compensation.
Larry Davis, of Burford, is Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk’s representative to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. He’s also a long-serving livestock evaluator in Brant County.
Davis has noticed that it is taking the province longer to process loss claims. He’s also noticed that an increasing number of claims are rejected.
A big part of the problem is the increasing strength of the coyote population in southern Ontario. Farmers need to provide evidence that their livestock has been killed. Coyotes, however, are efficient predators and usually leave nothing behind.
“I’ve talked to farmers who’ve been left with just a few pieces of hair,” Davis said. “That’s not enough to claim compensation. The government is in a tough spot here. The government has to take the word of farmers that their livestock has been attacked.”
While out deer hunting this week, Davis noted six coyote sightings.
Davis spoke of a sheep farmer near Scotland who began the year with 40 head. Thanks to coyote predation, this farmer was able to bring two sheep to market and received compensation for the loss of two others. The remainder disappeared into the coyote food chain, forcing this farmer to find another line of work.
Farmers responding to the demand for free-range chickens and eggs also have been affected.
Foxes, weasels, coyotes and other predators will make short work of free-range poultry if given the opportunity. As with sheep and cattle, predators often leave little or no evidence behind that these birds ever existed.
Compensation for a dead calf ranges from $250 to $500 per animal. Sheep are in the range of $70 to $250.
Davis knows of one farmer who bought two expensive calves for breeding purposes. Coyotes killed both. The farmer is seeking $6,000 per animal but has yet to hear back from the ministry.
“Compensation claims are going back and forth too many times,” Davis said. “They always say they need more evidence. It’s frustrating for farmers. They can’t wait weeks or months for compensation. It’s just not straightforward anymore.”