Western Canadian hay will continue to arrive for local farmers in need. Holding the Hay East sign in front of this barely visible 1,720-pound round bale are, at far left, Bob Johnston, the Renfrew County president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and Chris Judd, Pontiac County president for English-speaking farmers of the Union des producteurs agricoles (or Quebec Farmers Association). They are joined, from left, by hay recipients Paul Haldeman of Campbell’s Bay, Emiry Lacroix of Fort-Coulonge, Scott, William and Jessica Stephens of Clarendon, and Lacroix’s wife Helène.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
The impact from the drought of the summer of 2012 continues.
After a decent first cut of hay, the drought came and stayed while threatening the livelihood of many farmers in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.
About a decade ago, eastern Canadian farmers came to the rescue of western Canadian farmers. This time the roles are reversed, as hay is being shipped east through a joint program co-ordinated by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Mennonite Disaster Service.
MDS, which is headquartered out of Manitoba, is helping to finance the first few truckloads from western Canada, while efforts are underway to negotiate assistance from the federal and provincial governments for additional hay transportation by rail.
“The hay is too expensive here, and the farmers are already selling off their herds because of the drought,” said Chris Judd, a Shawville dairy farmer and president for the English-speaking farmers of Union des producteurs agricoles (or Quebec Farmers Association).
“This is a way to encourage the farmers not to sell their cattle and to stay in business.”
The whole beef industry took a big step back because of the BSE (mad-cow) episode of 2005.
“We figured it would be another two years before they were back to regular herds, but now it may take five years.”
The hay recently trucked from Saskatchewan and Alberta is going to Pontiac County farmers Paul Haldeman of Campbell’s Bay, Emiry Lacroix of Fort-Coulonge, and Scott Stephens of Clarendon.
The hay has been donated by western Canadian farmers. Transportation costs are being subsidized by haulers or the Mennonite Disaster Service. This leaves the farmer to pay about one-third to one-half the normal price of hay.
The recent rain, says Judd, was too late for corn and soybean crops, but the rain is helping to extend the pasture season.
“If we go another month without snow, that would be great,” said Horton Township resident Bob Johnston, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s Renfrew County Chapter.
“If I wasn’t getting this hay, I’d be selling off half my herd,” said Haldeman, who has about 50 head of cattle, and is paying a discount price for 15 large-round bales weighing in at 1,400 to 1,700 pounds apiece.
“This is just what we needed. It’s either this, or get rid of the cattle. There’s no alternative,” added Haldeman, who has never seen drought this bad in this part of Canada.
Another beneficiary is Scott Stephens, one of the younger farmers around, at age 28.
The discount hay, he says, is “going to allow us to keep our flock of sheep.” Stephens has managed to keep most of his 40 head of cattle, but was worried about the future of 70 ewes until the hay arrived.
To date, four truckloads of hay have come to the Upper Ottawa Valley for distribution, and another five of the next eight truckloads to Ontario will come to this region. That will mean 15 large bales for each of 10 farmers.
“It’s like taking a spoonful out of the mountain. Right now it’s a small amount, but there’s no question there’s a need,” said Brian Hamilton, the OFA’s regional member services rep.
“It’s a process that’s gaining momentum. This is helping with awareness.
“With the concept that hay is being donated, it’s also helping lower the price of local hay. We’re also fundraising to help offset transportation costs.”
Meanwhile, the campaign will continue to bring hay eastward throughout the winter.