Road restrictions are hampering hay deliveries to ranchers along Highway 20 in the Cariboo Chilcotin, said Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association president Cordy Cox-Ellis Thursday.
“I would really like to see an exception for ranchers hauling hay in for their cattle,” Cox-Ellis told the Tribune. “There were not enough trucks in B.C. to keep guys supplied with hay after the wildfires and as a result, they are still hauling hay to our ranchers.”
Most of the hay is coming from the Peace Region — from Fort St. John and Alberta, Cox-Ellis said.
Prices for hay continue to be high, going for more than $200 a tonne, and Cox-Ellis said with truckers only being able to haul a 70-per cent load on Highway 20, ranchers are paying “through the nose,” for the hay.
“I feel it’s really an SPCA matter,” she said. “These cattle need to eat.”
The region is made up of large operators with upwards of 500 to 1,000 head of cattle each, she noted, adding ranchers along Highway 20 were some of the hardest by the 2017 wildfires.
“So much hay was needed for so many cattle. If you can only haul 70 per cent and there are only so many guys hauling hay, they cannot keep up with the need of the cows.”
Hay haulers have managed to keep up, but now it’s getting tough, Cox-Ellis said.
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Road restrictions go into effect around this time every year to deal with spring breakup and are updated by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as snow disappears and roads become very muddy and soft.
The ministry responded Friday saying it imposes seasonal load restrictions throughout select areas of the province each spring for heavy vehicles and commercial transport trucks, to protect B.C.’s transportation infrastructure and maintain it over the long-term.
In the Cariboo District, the ministry is currently permitting 100 per cent legal loads to be transported along Highway 20 from Williams Lake west to the community of Hanceville, as the infrastructure to this point is strong enough to support it.
After Hanceville, Highway 20 cannot withstand 100 per cent loads, so they must be reduced to 70 per cent to prevent damage to the highway.
The ministry has proposed the creation of a staging area at the 100 per cent and 70 per cent transition point at Hanceville to allow drivers to adjust their load accordingly, and is working with the local ranching industry and BC Cattleman’s Association accordingly.
Information regarding B.C.’s seasonal load restrictions for the province are available online.
Clicking on a region will provide details about the load restrictions on specific highways and roads.
Ministry contacts and their phone numbers are listed at the bottom of each region’s page if drivers need more information.
This story was updated Friday, April 13, in the afternoon with a response from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure