More funds needed to move 100 million pounds of hay west

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

There are an estimated 100 million pounds of hay pledged to the Hay West ’21 initiative waiting for a ride west from the Maritimes, Quebec, and Ontario.

The federal minister of agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, on Wednesday (Dec. 15) pledged up to $3 million in support for the program to help cover the cost of hay transport. That’s in addition to $1 million committed by the federal government to the Hay West initiative in September.

But it won’t be enough to maintain the cow herd to pre-drought levels.

Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, says the priority right now is to get the hay that has been offered to the thousands of cattle in Western Canada.

“We know valuable breeding stock are now being culled due to both a lack of hay in the immediate, as well as ‘supply uncertainty’ through to spring,” Robinson says.

Under the Hay West program, 5.6 million pounds of hay have been shipped to over 75 producers. But it’s not enough. The demand for hay from the Prairie Provinces is well above even the 100 million pounds committed, says CFA. There is also an additional need in B.C., after thousands of bales of feed were destroyed in extreme floods in mid-November.

Farmers can buy hay at a set cost per pound through Hay West. Those offering hay sell it at the same price, with the program covering the cost of transport.

Robinson says that many farmers who are selling hay donate the funds back to the program to help cover transport costs.

“With these funds, we can feed more, but we will be seeking ongoing funding from the government and corporate donors to continue this program over the coming months to help as many animals and producers as possible. Every shipment is saving animals and saving farm families’ livelihoods,” Robinson says. “The more certainty and predictability we can give farmers on both ends of these shipments, the better they will be able to prepare and help minimize the long-term impacts of this feed shortage on our Canadian beef sector. The more funding we secure, the more breeding stock we can help maintain and the faster recovery will be.”

Farm Credit Canada, the Government of PEI, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and CN Rail have also offered significant support of the program.

CN Rail is currently offering to match donated funds up to $125,000, for a total of $250,000.

For more information, visit haywest2021.net.