By Patrick Meagher
Tweed beef farmer Harold Bateman’s application for predator compensation has been rejected by the province even though he submitted photos showing a calf’s stomach ripped out.
All signs, including a cleaned-out stomach, suggest it was a typical attack by a coyote, Bateman said, adding that the calf was too young to put up a struggle. With newborns, coyotes go for the navel, he said.
Bateman’s Jan. 9 application for compensation is one of the first in the province since new rules were implemented Jan. 1. The new rules are designed to make claims easier for everyone as it allows farmers to take photos of the carcass for submission as evidence.
Bateman recently received the official OMAFRA reply that said simply: “Insufficient evidence to determine whether predation was the cause of death.”
Bateman said compensation would be about $750 and has appealed. Appeals are heard by a different department of OMAFRA in the same building at 1 Stone Road, Guelph. “I’m not in favour of government inspecting government,” he said.
His account has been backed up by livestock inspector Heide Elliott, who took the photos, but cannot weigh in on the case because she is a personal friend. Elliott is also annoyed by the ruling.
“It’s totally clear” that the calf was attacked by a coyote and dragged, she said. “It was typical coyote.”
Elliott noted that in the past five years she has had more difficulty with OMAFRA “desk staff” because they show a lack of understanding of agriculture. As for the new investigators who determine the legitimacy of predatory claims, “we don’t have any information on what kind of training they have.”
Bateman, who has purebred bulls and 100 head of Angus-Charolais, said he loses about 10 calves each year to predators. “The problem is we are going to have more claims,” he said. “We have coyotes to no end. This is a bad time of year for us.”
In defence of the program, OMAFRA manager Adam Meyer told Farmers Forum that the one imperative to having a claim accepted is a photograph of the carcass. After that, there are three other factors that add weight to the claim. Added together, the evidence must lead to the reasonable conclusion that a predator was the cause, Meyer said. The three other factors are:
• Evidence that the animal bled during the attack. An already-dead animal will not be actively bleeding.
• Signs of tissue damage to show the animal was taken down. Tissue damage on a calf can include bruising, flesh tears, lacerations, bite or puncture marks.
• Signs of a struggle: Drag marks, scattered blood, broken vegetation. “Healthy stock will always defend itself,” Meyer said.
While the program received 2,200 requests for compensation last year, 165 to 176 applications (7.5 % to 8 %) were rejected. Reasons for rejection include: Lack of evidence of attack, applicant is a hobby farmer and does not qualify, livestock was dead or dying prior to attack, no photo of a carcass, or farmer did not provide proper care of livestock. In areas where predators are prevalent, the farmer must provide adequate care to prevent attacks, Meyer said. Sheep and cattle are by far the most common livestock killed by predators, he said.
Bateman argued that nine times out of 10 a calf is born alive, so that when there is no evidence to determine either way, the farmer should “get the benefit of the doubt.” Bateman also said he makes about six to seven claims a year and this is the first time he has been rejected.