Charity feed auction garnered ‘heartwarming’ support ahead of sale
In another year, Nancy Howatt of Manitou would have been picking out a steer to donate and bring to the ring at the Killarney Auction Mart.
It’s become something of an annual tradition for the producer, with the proceeds going to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
This year, however, is different. This year, there was crisis close to home. Beef producers, Howatt included, watched anxiety ratchet up through the growing season as drought gripped the province. One dire story after another flowed out of Manitoba’s northern cattle country: producers with no pasture, little water, hayfields that weren’t worth the fuel to harvest them, productive breeding animals hitting the market by July, or herds dispersed entirely.
At the same time, Howatt’s normal charitable destination, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, put out a plea for funds to help Haiti, which, on top of political instability, had suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake Aug. 14, killing thousands and causing widespread infrastructure damage — just in time for the nation to be hit by Tropical Storm Grace days later.
Howatt saw a chance to help both.
Why it matters: A handful of farmers in central and southwestern Manitoba hope feed donations will both add some buffer for producers whose feed is stretched, as well as raise money for disaster relief in Haiti.
Unlike many northern producers, Howatt did have oat straw to spare this year. Instead of her normal steer, she thought, why not donate and auction off the feed? Proceeds would still go to the foodgrains bank — dedicated to Haiti — and the donation might also help keep some cows in province that might otherwise hit the market.
“I thought this year, with the drought situation and the shortage of feed, this just kind of seemed like a double-dipper,” she said.
Howatt pitched the idea to her brother, Chris Lea, who added his support.
The idea quickly gained momentum.
Allan Munroe, owner of the Killarney Auction Mart, agreed to auction the feed Aug. 30. The auction later put out a social media post promoting the event.
From there, participation snowballed — including grain producers who do not own livestock. Howatt said she was “overwhelmed” by the family, friends and neighbours who also pledged straw, while other producers contacted the auction mart to add their own contribution.
“The one morning, I got four phone calls,” she said.
Munroe, likewise, said he was contacted by one of his customers the day after the social media post went out, interested in donating.
“It’s certainly grown beyond what I was expecting,” Munroe said.
“It’s a win for everyone,” he added. “It’s making a little bit of feed available to people and it’s raising some money to a good cause.”
As of Aug. 25, the donation list included 10 producers, and the auction had grown to 11 loads of cereal straw, as well as 100 tonnes of donated corn silage, courtesy of Peter Gilbraith of Gilbraith Farm Services, estimated at a value of $6,000, assuming a price of $6 a tonne.
This year, with feed shortages expected, that value was expected to be considerably higher.
Gordon Janzen, Manitoba representative for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, said the organization is working through the Humanitarian Coalition — an umbrella group of aid agencies — to provide food support for Haiti.
Details of that aid is still being hammered out, as the coalition works with local partners to respond to the crisis, he said.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank has not laid out a fundraising goal for its campaign, although Janzen noted the Humanitarian Coalition has put out a nationwide appeal for funds.
“We are expecting significant donations,” he said.
For Howatt, the event, and the response to it, was a “good news story,” in a year when so much of the news in the industry has been bad.
“It’s kind of like a community effort in the ag circle, is kind of how I look at it,” Howatt said, “and this way, we get to also help our bigger world community by doing the Haiti disaster relief overseas.”
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