With farmers in need, the industry stepped up

Hay being loaded onto a Titan Trailer by Charlie Martens, who with his brother Joe made the donation.

Ontario companies and farmers have been eager to help with feed shortages

The plight of drought-stricken farmers in northwestern Ontario and the Prairies has had many Ontario farmers and businesses wondering how they can help. Those co-ordinating the efforts to move hay to those in need say the response has been overwhelming.

“We didn’t realize when we started that we would actually have tons of people phone up to donate,” said Mike Kloepfer, owner of Titan Trailers, a custom trailer manufacturer with plants in Delhi and Tillsonburg.

Kloepfer talked with his western Canadian dealer, Ocean Trailer, on the possibility of loading hay from Ontario to the west in newly-built trailers, which are normally shipped to the dealer empty.

Why it matters: Many farmers in Ontario have extra hay they would like to donate to fellow farmers in drought-affected areas of the province or in the west, and several companies have stepped up to help move the hay to those in need.

Ocean Trailer co-ordinated a drop-off point just off the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan, and has worked with organizations and truck carrier companies on the Prairies to distribute the hay to farmers that are in need. Some hay has been shipped further west on trailers destined for Alberta and B.C. with the help of third-party carriers.

“This would not have happened without the efforts of Ocean Trailer,” said Kloepfer, who emphasized that the initiative has been a team effort. To find available hay, Titan Trailers reached out on Facebook to see if any local farmers had any extra they could donate.

“We thought we would get some local guys that would want to donate, but it has turned into a long list of people all over the province,” he said.

As of Aug. 25, Titan has shipped four full trailers of hay west and four more are planned for early September. The company plans to have 30 trailers shipped to Western Canada by the end of the year, the number of trailers the company will have built by then for Ocean Trailer.

Closer to home, Titan Trailers recently helped ship hay to northwestern Ontario.

Mark Frew, owner of Frew Energy, a Petro Canada distributor and Frew Farms, a beef and cash crop operation near Norwich, wanted to help fellow livestock farmers and reached out to Kloepfer and farm manager Jerry Martens, on how Frew Farms could help.

Although Frew Farms didn’t have extra hay, Martens said his brothers Charlie and Joe, who farm near Thorndale, did.

“They were blessed and overwhelmed with the amount of hay they had because they’ve had a tremendous year,” said Martens. “So, they said they would donate the hay.”

Martens said Frew offered to supply a truck and fuel, and Titan Trailers offered the use of a trailer. On Aug. 18, the truck and trailer were loaded with hay at the Martens farm in Thorndale, and the hay was driven to a drop-off point co-ordinated by the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) at Stratton, in the Rainy River district.

Martens said this is an example of the true farming community spirit. “It’s about using your network. A whole bunch of people came together and put together a plan to help.” He said farmers help farmers all the time, “and we don’t give ourselves enough credit as farmers about what we do for others.”

Robert McKinlay, producer relations specialist with BFO, said the organization has also been “overwhelmed by the generosity of producers who have expressed interest in selling or donating hay to help those in need in drought-stricken regions.”

He said the BFO is collecting this information and sharing it with beef farmers in northwestern Ontario who are looking for long-term feed solutions moving into the fall and winter, but negotiations are between the buyer and seller.

“We have seen the best success with generous operations such as Frew Farms and Frew Fuels donating trucks and fuel to allow for more flexibility in transport schedules and unloading capabilities,” he said.

BFO is responsible for delivering emergency funding provided by the provincial government from the Northwestern Livestock Emergency Assistance Initiative, announced by the province on July 26.

“Due to the urgent need for feed, the fund has been used to swiftly procure and transport hay in large quantities while still ensuring quality and an economic price to maximize government dollars,” he said.

Feed procured through this initiative is being distributed to applicants based on the proportionate size of each breeding herd/flock relative to the available supply of feed in as equitable a manner as possible, he said.

He added that BFO is working with Titan Trailers to arrange more loads of hay to help producers in drought-affected areas.

Kloepfer makes it clear that Titan Trailers is not involved in paying for hay, accepting money to buy hay or issuing tax receipts for donations, something that many people inquiring with his company ask about.

“I’m doing this for free, out of the goodness of my heart, as is Ocean Trailer,” he said. “We are not out to make money on this. My wife Sandy and I have been very fortunate, so we can afford to do this for farmers in need.”

He said his company is willing to pick up a full load of hay from producers within 50 kilometres of Delhi, but anyone who only has a partial load will have to bring it to the Oxford (Tillsonburg) plant.

McKinlay said he wants to remind producers of the Ontario Hay Listing Service, which is administered by the Ontario Forage Council and a free-of-charge option for buyers and sellers of forages.

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