Price Of Hay In Oklahoma Rising Like The Heat

Monday, August 8th 2011, 3:17 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- This historic heat is bearing down on hay farmers.

The lack of rain is drying up their fields. That's cutting off their production now and creating a critical shortage that might not end anytime soon.

"Everybody is pretty bad off this year; it's burned up a lot of hay, burned a lot up," Farmer Jim Hallmark said.

The dry weather has lasted so long that many ranchers no longer have any hay they can bale up. But for anyone with hay, there's a buyer willing to pay a premium price.

One of the last fields being raked up and baled is near Inola. It's still good quality hay, but there's nothing coming in to replace it and normally farmers would get another cutting before frost.

There's already a shortage and now it looks like it's going to get worse.

"I've seen a lot of people asking $60, $70, $80 for a bale of hay. Normally, $35, $40," Ken Froese said.

Ken Froese says the highest price he's heard so far was $80 a bale. He's had people from South Texas call looking for hay.

"Supply and demand, I guess, and demand is huge," he said. "I could have sold probably 50,000 round bales and no telling how many square bales, but we just don't have it."

Even with high prices, many ranchers are holding on to what they have to feed their own cattle this winter.

This year, they've only made about half as much hay as a good year. And only rain and lots of it could green up these brown pastures enough to get them growing again.

"Gloomy, it's burning up. If we don't get it all, it's going to burn up fast," Hallmark said.

With pastures drying up and the prospect of a more severe shortage this winter, many ranchers are selling their cattle. Their most immediate worry isn't the hay, its water. With this intense heat, their stock ponds are drying.