Big plans are underway for the Rainy River Cattleman’s Associations (RRCA) new Sales Barn that is set to start building in April.
On Jan. 21 the RRCA had their annual general meeting where updates on cattle sales for 2020 were discussed, as well as an exciting development about the new Sales Barn, which will also include upgrading their cattle scale which is a priority when selling cattle because they are sold by weight.
Louis Bujold, president of the RRCA, said the building of the new sales barn is going to be tight because they only have around four months to complete it.
Bujold said they were expecting to receive approval to start construction on the Sales Barn in May 2020 but did not receive one until November 2020, which set everything back; they could not go ahead with the project until they knew for sure that they were getting funding.
The project will cost about 1.6 million. Bujold said they received funding from FedNor and NOHFC, which will help with the cost. He added that they will be left with a loan at the end which the board feels is manageable to pay back.
Bujold said construction for the new barn began in 2019 with a fire at the old barn, which led them to look at funding to rebuild.
The RRCA puts on five cattle sales a year and luckily, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year did not stop the sales, but Bujold said he was worried about the impact.
“At first I was very nervous in the spring sale because that’s when COVID first hit so a lot of things were a bit up in the air, but that actually was a pretty good sale,” Bujold said.
He added that COVID also impacted what they needed to run the sales, such as masks and hand sanitizer, but they were able to get government funding to help cover the cost.
The RRCA is now getting ready for their next cattle sale in April of this year and the other four will be starting at the end of August or early September, which is when they are hoping the new Sales Barn will be finished.
Bujold said probably the next day after the sale in April, they will begin moving gates out of the old sales barn and getting things ready for construction. The main drive for the new sales barn is to provide a better facility for the cattle.
“The issue is always weather with farming. It can be cold, but if cattle are wet, they can get sick and they’re just not as presentable to sell if they’re full of mud and manure,” Bujold said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a disaster back there but it does get muddy and it gets soupy and it’s way better for the cattle if we can put them on cement and keep them drier.”
Bujold said it has been difficult organizing the construction because of COVID-19. Meetings have been forced online, making it difficult to share visual ideas and communicate in a timely way.
“If you meet, you can decide it in a couple hours but because you can’t meet, everyone has to do their bit to try to help and communicate,” Bujold said. “So it doesn’t take two hours, it takes sometimes weeks to go back and forth, so that’s the biggest hurdle.”
Despite the setbacks, Bujold said things are underway which is important because the Sales Barn is the hub of the members and ‘where you meet your neighbours.’ He also adds that without the Sales Barn, money would not be going back into the community.
“It’s pretty important and $7.3 million went through there last year so that’s a lot of money for the community,” Bujold said. “If we didn’t have that sale, a lot of that money would be going out to Manitoba or southern Ontario.”
Bujold said they are currently in the middle of drilling a new well at the Sales Barn and are close to sending out bids for construction of the Sales Barn and yard improvements. They began the cement work for the cattle yard in the fall of 2020 until the weather no longer permitted it.
Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times