By: Cam Fortems (Kamloops this Week)

Worries about a possible fire sale on B.C. beef have been set aside following rising prices and numbers of cattle coming to market in the peak season.

Kevin Boon, general manager of B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, said there was speculation in summer that cattle in the fire-ravaged Central Interior would come to market with a perceived discount.

“We were quite concerned at the start where it would go,” he said. “In past [wildfire] years we’ve seen a bit of a discount for cattle coming in.”

But Boon estimates ranchers have been fetching prices about five to 10 per cent higher than last year. While last year was not a record-setter, prices were considered healthy for the B.C. industry.

Larry Jordan, an auctioneer with B.C. Livestock Producers Co-operative, said the volume of cattle coming to market is peaking as usual this time of year, although there may be some stragglers.

“Prices are good,” he said.

“Overall I’d say we’re 35 to 40 cents a pound higher than a year ago.”

Jordan said that translates into $200 to $300 per head extra revenue for ranchers compared to 2016.

The auctioneer said the only impact of the wildfires may be with some calves coming to market that are leaner than normal due to dwindling of grass and the requirement they move to distant grazing areas to escape fire.

Boon said some ranchers are still searching for lost animals in the wake of the fires, including by using cowboys, helicopters and drones.

But, he said, the reliable and pending winter snowfall is expected to drive cattle back to the home range.

Damaged fences replaced

The province estimates it has replaced most of the 100 kilometres of livestock fencing critical to motorist safety that was destroyed in the summer wildfires.

The New Democrat government provided $6.2 million to replace destroyed fencing along provincial highways. Money was also used to replace fencing on Crown grazing areas.

The first priority was Highway 20 west of Williams Lake, where 60 kilometres of fencing was destroyed or damaged.

That work is now complete and the focus is on Highway 97 north of Ashcroft to the Central Interior.

The program was delivered with a number of provincial ministries and B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.