Duke Energy Corp. and West Brothers Transportation Services Inc. are donating trucking services to help North Carolina cattlemen cope with a massive hay shortage, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler has announced.

The companies volunteered to haul loads of baled cornstalks from eastern North Carolina farms to western counties over the next four to five weeks. They will haul up to three loads a week, and each load will contain 34 to 40 bales. The bales will be sold to farmers on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We are extremely happy that Duke Energy and West Brothers Transportation have stepped up to help farmers cope with the drought,” Troxler said. “One of the challenges we’re facing is the cost of transporting hay and alternative feeds to livestock producers across the state. Fortunately, these companies care enough to donate their resources and time to making a difference for our farmers.”

Trucks from West Brothers picked up the first bales at Boseman Farms in Battleboro on Sept. 26 and took them to Duke Energy’s warehouse in Durham. Duke Energy tractor-trailers delivered the bales to the Caldwell County Fairgrounds in Lenoir on Sept. 28, where farmers were able to buy them. Agents with North Carolina Cooperative Extension are coordinating the hay sales.

Deliveries to additional locations are being scheduled.

“Duke Energy and our businesses partner, West Brothers Transportation Services Inc., are glad to support the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ hay relief program by transporting needed food supplies to the state’s cattle farmers,” said Tony Almeida, Duke Energy vice-president of business relations and economic development. “The drought has had a significant impact on our company’s operations and the state’s agribusiness, so it is important we work together to get through this very difficult period.”

Reports from farmers indicate the state’s hay shortage could be as high as 800,000 round bales, forcing farmers to seek other options for feeding cattle through the winter. Farmers whose corn and soybean crops were damaged by the drought have offered to help livestock producers by baling and selling their crops for animal feed.

The state agriculture department is trying to help these farmers connect with one another through the Hay Alert Web site, which allows farmers to place free listings seeking or selling hay. It also has a section for finding or offering hay transportation services. The site is available at www.ncagr.com/index.htm. Listings are searchable by county, state and forage type.

Farmers also can use the Hay Alert service by calling toll free at 1-866-506-6222 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Operators will take callers’ information and add it to the Web site or search the database for them.

Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, is one of the largest electric-power holding companies in the United States. A Fortune 500 company, Duke Energy had operating revenues of $15.2 billion in 2006. For more information, log on to www.duke-energy.com.

West Brothers is a Durham-based trucking and transportation-management company with 450 employees and 22 offices throughout the Southeast. For more information, log on to www.westbros.com.