Farmers across Canada are known for helping their neighbours. Sometimes, that neighbour isn’t next door.
That’s true for a number of Lambton County farmers who have banded together to help western Canada’s livestock farmers who are facing the worst drought of a generation.
There has been little rain in the prairie provinces this summer and in the cattle industry, feed is scarce. Fields which cattle normally would graze are bare and there is no hay to supplement their food supply. Many farmers are selling off cattle because they simply can’t feed them.
The plight of the farmers weighs on people in agriculture across the country, including in Lambton where George Dickenson has been a beef farmer for decades. He knew Ontario Beef was working on a program where farmers could donate hay to go west and into Northern Ontario when forest fires have ravaged the crop.
It mirrors a program Western farmers set up decades ago to help livestock farmers in Eastern Ontario who were dealing with a shortage of feed.
Recently, Dickenson caught up with Roger Thurston of Korny Korners in Sarnia who had also thought about donating to help his fellow farmers.
Dickenson says Thurston told him about the land he owned near the Sarnia airport and the tall grasses growing there.
“He said, ‘well, that needs to be cut again this year and I would donate that hay to the Hay West program.”
The logistics of the harvest took only a few minutes and soon it became a community project.
“I said, ‘well, that’s perfect.’ We use round bales, and they don’t ship as well as square bales do. So I said to Roger, ‘well, we could find somebody with a square baler. I’ll see if I can find somebody with square baler to bale it.’ Then I said, ‘I’ll gladly cut it.’ And I said, ‘we’ll make like a, like a foodgrains project – like the community project.’
“So he said, ‘Well, Brian Pelleboer, who usually takes that hay off, he has a square baler.’ So, he called Brian and Brian agreed to do it.
“So that’s what we did; I cut it and raked it up and then Brian bailed it and then Brian helped me haul it. Right now it’s in a pile at London Road West Church, waiting for a truck.”
Ontario Beef is trying to arrange transport of the 91 bales cut from the Sarnia Airport grounds. It may head to the prairies in the back of an empty transport, but nothing has been finalized.
And Dickenson says there are plenty of other farmers across Ontario trying to help.
“The Ontario Beef Farmers are kinda taking names and then they make a list. They did have some funding so they are sending some loads out west and I know the Lambton of Federation of Agriculture, we sent them a check for $2,000.”
Dickenson is hoping to see it off soon. While it is not a huge amount of hay, every bale helps.
“Cows will go through it fairly quickly. But it is nice grass hay. Like Brian made the comment, it will make somebody happy that is short of feed and they’ll be glad to see this roll in the laneway.”