100-plus hay bales stolen from farm in Bidwell

Boot prints in the snow point to a likely culprit.

BIDWELL—Sylvia Moggy made a startling discovery last week following the rain and thaw—fresh tracks leading to the location where the family’s hay is kept near the Bidwell Road then leaving again from the spot where the Moggy’s outside hay stash had been stored, but leaving the square bale cache much smaller. The number of missing bales, Ms. Moggy says, numbers in the hundreds.

Ms. Moggy immediately got to work, finding a perfect boot track that had flash frozen after the quick drop in temperature and began estimating how many bales they had lost. The boot and tire tracks were “clear as day,” she said. Following a poor hay season, Ms. Moggy said they managed to get 2,275 square bales from their fields—1,000 less than they normally would have had.

The Moggys then called the police, who visited the scene that morning and determined that the tire tracks show that a trailer was not used to enter the property and take the hay.

Doing some sleuthing on her own, and with a photo of the boot track in hand, Ms. Moggy began to try and discover the make of boot that it belonged to, heading to NAPA Auto Parts in Little Current then to RONA Little Current Building Centre to looks at treads.

“I went into full detective mode,” she said.

After explaining to a friend what she was attempting to do, the friend responded that she knew the kind of footwear the tread belonged to. Once Ms. Moggy saw the matching boot, something clicked.

Distinctive tire marks narrow down the field.

“I have a photographic memory,” she told this reporter.

Ms. Moggy believes she was able to track down the person who took the hay, which she said accounted for about 100 bales. Ms. Moggy, who keeps meticulous records of the family’s hay sales, says there could be as many as 500 bales unaccounted for. She believes now this was only the latest in a series of hay heists from her family’s farm this winter.

Ms. Moggy said the missing hay is “definitely related” to the poor hay crop of last summer when months of no rain meant a stunted harvest. The Moggys recognized the need for square bales early on and, only needing about 600 bales for the family’s horses, put the hay on the market as they often do.

“We’ve had customers from all over—Beaver Lake, Goderich—desperate for hay,” she said. “We knew early on in the year there was a limited amount so we decided to sell.”

“We’ve had a number of calls just this past month,” Ms. Moggy added, “and have had to turn people away.”

Ms. Moggy said they have decided to not sell any more hay as they have customers who have orders that still need to be filled. “We may not be able to fill those obligations now,” she added.

“Our hay sales cover our mortgage—we count on that,” she continued. “It’s a disappointment, but we’re used to living on a tight budget, so we will get by.”

Truck tires mark the path of the hay bale bandits.

Ms. Moggy said the security is now tight on the property. “We’re not taking chances now.”

Ms. Moggy said she can understand why the hay went missing, but said she’d never do something like that herself.

“When you’re responsible for an animal’s wellbeing…it’s a desperate place to be,” she said.

Brian Bell, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) ag rep, told The Expositor that he is aware of some beef producers who are trying to source hay for the next couple of months before their livestock can graze on pasture. “Some have very tight hay supplies and some are okay,” he said.