Fed up with high hay prices and concerned about the lack of affordable hay, Cindy Wilinski decided to take matters into her own hands.
Last month, the owner of CRW Equines set up a Facebook page called Hay List 2015 to connect hay buyers with hay sellers.
“I was trying to group people together because the majority of customers was small-acreage owners,” said Wilinski, who raises horses and cattle near Okotoks. “They do not have the ability to buy truckloads of hay at a time because they are only feeding one to four horses. Getting hay shipped to them is out of the question because they don’t have a full load.”
So Wilinski began arranging shared shipping. She found sellers of hay in areas not hit by drought and connected them with customers who needed hay. Hay was delivered to specified drop points, with the small-acreage owners sharing the shipping costs to make their purchases more reasonably priced.
But they weren’t the only ones who needed hay. The number of likes on Hay List 2015 jumped to over 3,000 in the first week.
“It’s just snowballed from there,” said Wilinski. “We have people who are wanting an entire year’s supply of cattle hay or alternative feeds. Boarding stables are looking for 700 square bales a month. We’ve been able to help a lot of people get hay and avoid having to sell their entire herd.
“If all these cattle people who are hit hard have to dump their cattle now, the cattle prices will go up again in spring, and the horse markets will be flooded, which will drive horse prices down again. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
Hay List 2015 soon had thousands of ‘likes’ and was being used across the province, with most of the people looking for hay in the Edmonton area, followed by Lloydminster, Medicine Hat, and Calgary.
Wilinski isn’t making a cent from the project, and intends to register it as a non-profit. She’s sourced hay from the northern U.S., Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Trucking costs make the hay very expensive, but some transporters have just charged for fuel. Wilinski initially used her contacts to source hay, and then people began helping her through word of mouth and the Internet. Wilinski has managed to find some deals and has sourced hay for $4 a square bale in Saskatchewan, a bargain compared to the $12 that some Alberta suppliers have been charging.
RJK Canada, a mining, construction and power company owned by Robert J. Krueger, donated a database which Wilinski uses to keep track of buyers and sellers. The database allows her to cross-reference and match everyone with the type of hay they are requesting.
There is no cost to use Hay List 2015. Wilinski is making arrangements with an accountant friend in Red Deer, Steve Schiestel of Summit Wealth Strategies, to establish the group as a non-profit, and create a buying co-op.
Anyone in need of hay or who has hay to sell can post to Hay List 2015 on Facebook. A description of the process along with sign-up forms for buyers, sellers, and transporters can also be found online.