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Thousands of animals, livestock have perished in B.C.’s historic flooding: Agriculture Minister

BCSPCA on standby to help farmers, livestock
Calf houses float in the flood waters in Abbotsford, B.C., Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

B.C.’s agriculture minister estimates thousands of livestock have perished in the aftermath of the flooding in B.C.

In an Emergency Management B.C. briefing Wednesday (Nov. 17), Minister Lana Popham said hundreds of farms have been affected.

RELATED: B.C. declares state of emergency amid devastating floods, landslides

As for the livestock, she said, there are “thousands that have perished.” Popham added there will also be livestock that will have to be euthanized.

In the last couple of days, Popham said the ministry has made “300 contacts,” with different associations and farmers directly. She said she’s been able to FaceTime with some of the farmers.

“Some of them are in their barns and some of them are flooded and you can see the animals that are deceased.”

Popham said the ministry is developing routes so that veterinarians can access farms and get to animals “as soon as possible.” She added some of the animals are in “critical need” for food in the next 24 hours.

Currently, there are several groups on Facebook dedicated to helping livestock in the Fraser Valley, including BC & Alberta Emergency Livestock/Animal/Horse Evacuation Support Group.

Posts on social media show people using boats to direct cows to safety through the flooding.

“I know that people have seen the rescue attempts,” Popham said. “Farmers are desperate to move their animals.”

She noted that while the government isn’t encouraging those methods, “we understand why that happens.”

But Popham said for some of the animals that were moved through the water, they’re “not in good shape by the time they get there.”

A senior protection officer with the BC SPCA says “it’s horrific” what is happening to livestock in

READ ALSO: Sumas Prairie flooding remains ‘critical,’ Abbotsford mayor says 184 people rescued overnight

Due to the road closures the BC SPCA is on standby to help “and it’s changing minute by minute,” said Eileen Drever, senior protection officer and stakeholder relations.

“We can’t go in and remove any livestock. We’re here to help any farmers that need assistance, but until the roads are clear, we can’t really do anything.”

Drever said it’s “really, really frustrating.”

“We want to help. It’s really, really unfortunate. My heart goes out to the farmers and the animals. It’s horrific.”

But Drever said the BC SPCA needs direction from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.

“If they want us to assist, we can go in and assist in any way we can,” she noted. “But up until that time, we need direction.”

As for the agriculture industry, B.C. Dairy Association board chair Holger Schwichtenberg said “that’s too early to call.”

“We’re still sorting it out, what happened the last two days and trying to get as many animals safe and sound and on dry ground and taken care of,” said Schwichtenberg, a dairy farmer himself who took in 45 cows from Sumas Prairie on Tuesday.

“We’ll have to see how the next five or six days unfold, will the tanker trucks being able to pick up milk again, can they even get through to us, are the roads passable, can the processors accept it? I mean, there’s a lot of things that we need to get sorted out but we’ll do our best to get everything back to normal as soon as we can.”

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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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