Wildfires consume area farmers' remaining hay supplies

Tuesday, November 29th 2005, 10:22 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma ranchers and farmers say hay has been in short supply because of the drought. Now, as News on 6 reporter Steve Berg explains, this week’s grassfires have inflamed an already bad situation.

Berg visited with a farmer in the Maize area.

Ronald Aurand knew there was a hay shortage, he just didn't realize how much worse it was going to get. "Things were getting a little tough with hay, so we just bought 15 round bales at the auction and well, they're over there, they're all burnt up." So is his house, another trailer, a bunch of his equipment and about 400 chickens on his farm east of Mazie.

Aurand was able to get his four cows and five horses out, but even those not directly affected by the fire, will be feeling the effects on the hay supply. "That's not good for anybody around here."

The Farm Bureau says some ranchers in Oklahoma had started feeding hay to their livestock a month early because the grass just hasn't been growing. Mayes County is the 8th biggest hay supplier in the state. And so, the fires in Maize and also in Checotah were in bad spots at a bad time. "They just got done baling the 2nd cutting and it was just sitting in the fields. They'd a probably gotten it out next week, but they probably lost about half of what was out there."

After losing so much himself, Aurand was in a bad position to replace the hay for his livestock, but a family friend offered to keep them on his farm near Bartlesville. “We got lucky. He's gonna take our cattle and they told us, just don't worry about it, get this done down here and get back on our feet."

State lawmakers are having a news conference at the state Capitol Wednesday to talk about how to help ranchers get enough hay to get through the winter.