By Tom Collins
The chair of a new Ontario hay co-op says hay can be more profitable than corn.
“The tonnage of hay per acre is the same as corn,” said Fritz Trauttmansdorff, chair of the Ontario Hay and Forage co-op. “Then it comes down to, can you harvest it and produce it efficiently? And can you market it for a better price?”
Trauttmansdorff says the answer to both questions is yes. Higher hay prices should be achievable by accessing more stable markets and is the reason why the new co-op was formed in November.
The group is conducting a feasibility study on building a $5 million to $10 million facility that would process, dry and export up to 100,000 metric tonnes of hay per year, about 2 per cent of Ontario’s annual hay production. Trauttmansdorff says there is demand for hay in southeast Asia, England, Ireland, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and possibly India, as populations there are eating more meat but don’t have enough water to grow enough hay to feed their animals. The expansion of the Panama canal this year and Suez canal last year, to allow more freighters, will lower container shipping rates in Eastern North America, making Ontario competitive in the worldwide market, said Trauttmansdorff.
The plant would be located in the Guelph or Kitchener area and near Hwy 401.The plant would also be within an hour’s drive from a container yard in Brampton, where the containers would come from to be filled. Eastern Ontario growers have shown interest in the plant despite distance, Trauttmansdorff said. “Many of them are shipping hay west anyway, either to Western Ontario or to the U.S.”
The money to build the plant would come from member fees — $1,000 to start — to join the co-op and from lenders and investors. If the feasibility study — to be completed in March or April — is positive, the co-op hopes to have everything up and running within two to three years.
The co-op already has 40 members and hopes to reach 200.
“This will open up an opportunity for cash crop farmers to reintroduce hay back into their rotation,” said Trauttmansdorff. “When you have a good stable market and you have a drying system, it doesn’t just becomes a gamble with the weather but a predictable crop to be comparable in risk to growing grains.”
To become a co-op member, contact Trauttmansdorff at 519-647-2311 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.