ATHABASCA - The Athabasca Heifer Co-op started in 1996 as a “spin-off” from the Colinton Feeders Association, whose directors and member at the time saw a need for bred animal financing.
This year will be the 25th year of operation of the co-op, and over the years, it has helped over 337 members start or increase their herd, says administrator Carmen Harbin. The co-op works in alliance with Farm Credit Canada to provide financing on bred cows, bred heifers, and replacement heifers, as well as feeder cattle. They can finance cattle purchased from auction marts, private treaty transactions and self-purchases as well.
“Currently, we have 85 active members, with over $6.5 million lent out on nearly 5,500 head of cattle,” she says. “We have flexible loans, ranging from one to five years.”
She notes one of the major benefits of the program is the co-op's brand, Over Quarter Circle, that carries through on all animals financed through the co-op's program.
“There is no need to re-brand the animals if they move from our feeder program into our breeding program. One brand fits all.”
The area covered by the co-op is Highway 16 north, with most of the members from the Barrhead, Westlock and Athabasca areas. There are also members as far south as Fort Saskatchewan, west to Sangudo, and north, east and west to Lamont, Lac La Biche, Smoky Lake, St. Paul, Valleyview, Wandering River and as far north as La Crete.
“It’s quite far reaching,” notes co-op chair George L’Heureux. “La Crete creates a challenge for supervision. But we do manage to get it done.”
Although the co-op board and members were unable to meet in person this past December for their regular AGM due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the board remains the same, and it is basically, business as usual.
“I feel it’s a very successful organization. It was handed to this board from previous boards with that mindset in place and I think we’re following through on the people that started it,” said L’Heureux.
“We’re being very careful on how we conduct business. The staff is unbelievable. You can only have a good organization if you’ve got good staff, and we’ve got the best by far. And I can’t say enough about the board members. They’ve all cattlemen. They’re all professionals. They all understand the business of the cattle industry and the business of how it works. It’s phenomenal.”
He points out there have been very few issues with the co-op, and going forward they intend to keep it that way. “The success is our equity position. It’s phenomenal, and that’s all I can say on that.”
Cattlemen wanting more information or applications to the program can contact Harbin at the office, 780-348-5958 or on her cellphone, 780-307-7276. Or you can contact her by e-mail at email@example.com or check out the website, www.athabascaheifercoop.com which has some general information about the organization.