Worries over limited deadstock disposal resulted in the Beef Farmers of Ontario and Sheep Farmers of Ontario hosting a Zoom meeting that attracted about 200 farmers. But the issue isn’t so much a shortage of deadstock collectors as it is an economic balancing act as many farmers are not willing to pay what they believe is too high a price for deadstock removal.
Greg Humphrey, a licensed deadstock collector in Sarnia, says he received six phone calls in three days for deadstock pickup, but all clients turned down the prices they were offered.
“They just think it’s too expensive, so I don’t know what they’re doing with their horses,” Humphrey said. He runs his own business, Out-Foxed Wildlife Control Services, for collecting roadkill and added horses to the list when OMAFRA contacted him in need of a horse collector in the Sarnia area.
Humphrey is one of 17 deadstock operators in Ontario listed on the OMAFRA website.
Humphrey says he charges $550 per pickup, plus a dollar per kilometre when he travels to get the animal. That covers time, fuel, insurance, wear and tear on his vehicle, and the $210 landfill disposal fee per horse — including $150 to dig the hole.
“It takes special equipment. I spent $12,000 on a horse trailer with four-foot high walls. It has to have winches to lift the horse into the trailer and it has to be properly cleaned afterwards,” Humphrey explained. “It has to be profitable. I have it set to be sustainable. Obviously I don’t want to overcharge people.”
Larger companies that do mass deadstock rendering benefit from a higher volume and don’t pick up single animals.
Atwood Resources is the biggest mass deadstock renderer in Ontario. They charge $90 per cow and $180 per horse, while a single collectors charge around $300 per cow and $900 per horse, says owner Tom Smith.
He says “too many collectors are pricing themselves out of the market.”
Getting a license is easy, he said. “It’s not a shortage of licences. It’s the business itself. You can have 1,000 people with licences and none will make money if they each want $1,000 a horse. It’s the affordability of the disposal of the animal — not the actual collectors — that is the issue.”
On the other hand, Humphrey says it can be a “race to the bottom” for who’s going to be the cheapest to attract the clients. When collectors keep cutting their prices, they eventually realize their business is neither profitable nor sustainable and drop out, he said.
Deadstock dealers are competing with on-farm disposal and need to keep their services cost-effective so they’re enticing to farmers, said Smith. “Farmers won’t pay $400 a cow. They will find other means. There’s farmers that will throw it in the bush or manure pile and make it go away.”
“If you price it too high, you don’t get enough, and when you don’t get enough, you have to charge more. That’s the problem,” Smith explained.
Smith says he’s seen the effects of this vicious cycle on his own company in past years. Before he put a charge on calves, he would get 8,000 calves a month. When he implemented a $10 charge, calves went down to 2,000. Since numbers dropped, he raised his price to $40 and last month he got 750 calves.