ASSIGINACK—The last cattle sale of the year for the Manitoulin Livestock Exchange (MLE) took place on Saturday at the property of Dave McDowell south of Manitowaning with over 200 head of cattle sold—a good finish to the end of the inaugural year.
Mr. McDowell, who runs the MLE along with partner Dean Millsap of Evansville, said he’s pleased with the way things have gone in the first year of operation, selling over 900 head of cattle. While he was shooting for 1,000, almost getting there is a pretty good second, he said.
The prices Island farmers have fetched have also been fair, he said, without having to travel to such sales barns as the Keady market in Bruce County.
“I honestly think we’ve proven that it’s supported, but the next step is we’ve got to have a building up,” Mr. McDowell said. “I don’t think I can stand another sleepless week leading up to a sale worrying about the weather.”
The MLE is now building its business case to present to both MPP Michael Mantha and MP Carol Hughes in the hopes of receiving funding to one day build a proper sales barn.
“This is more of a community service than we’re out there to make money,” Mr. McDowell continued, noting the social element for Manitoulin farmers that a sale day brings.
He envisions a farmers’ market as part of the sales barn, seen similarly at other cattle sales across the province, one that would include vegetables, baking and a lunchroom that would see community groups take turns fundraising endeavours. Mennonite products, from Manitoulin’s new Mennonite neighbours, could be part of the market too, he added, as they have shown support for the MLE.
The MLE has had five sales this year, two in the spring and three this fall.
“Everything’s been really positive,” he added. “You hear the odd ‘you need a building’ or ‘you need more southern Ontario buyers,’ but that’s a case of the chicken or the egg. To get buyers from the south we need more cows. I think on Manitoulin, you have to start small and build from there.”
Some sales, he said, saw the majority of cattle stay on Manitoulin, while some sales saw them head for destinations south. Each sale is different—the Saturday sale saw a high demand for white, male calves.
The majority of the cattle sold were calves and their bawling could be heard loud and clear. When asked why the racket, Providence Bay farmer Steve Orford explained that the calves had been taken from their mothers just a couple of days before the sale and were in the process of being weaned.
“Some buyers like to hear them bawl,” he explained, noting that it shows the health of the calves.
“If they can bawl, they’re usually not sick,” Mr. McDowell added.
For a full breakdown of the first year of sales for MLE, please see future editions of this paper.