Cost of hay skyrockets in drought-afflicted Central Texas

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 7:07 PM CDT
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LORENA, Texas (KWTX) - Rancher Curtis Timmons is feeling the Central Texas drought firsthand, and it’s not just sweat we’re talking about.

Lorena is in severe drought, meaning pasture conditions are very poor.

“Everything depends on the next. No rain means no pasture, no pasture means no hay, no hay means the cow prices go down and the hay prices go up,” says Timmons, who owns The Country Spring Vineyard with his wife, Mary.

Only receiving 7.5 inches of rain so far in 2022, the grass on his land can’t reach the height necessary for hay baling, causing him to outsource the needed protein.

Timmons has had to sell almost two-thirds of his cattle stock to auction due to the soaring prices of hay seen across the state.

“We usually keep 15 to 20 head of cattle and we sold two-thirds of them because we didn’t feel like we could feed them through the winter. Couldn’t afford or find the hay,” Timmons said.

Since late April, hay prices have increased as much as sixty percent which means that ranchers are paying more than double what they are used to for a single bale of hay.

“There’s good hay out there that’s $80 and above this year instead of $40, $50, $60 last year,” Timmons said when discussing the current price of hay.

Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller says it’s one big domino effect with certain factors like diesel costs, and low rain levels playing a huge factor in hay bale production.

“What we have here is supply and demand, we haven’t had any rain so normally this time of year we would be getting ready for our second cutting of hay,” Miller said.

By the winter months, ranchers will normally have three to four cuttings worth of hay. With that much hay, normally, it’s enough to help their cattle last through the cold temperatures

Commissioner Miller says purchasing the expensive hay right now just isn’t feasible for long term. “When there’s limited supply it causes the price to go up. Now a lot of cattlemen are seeing the writing on the wall. You just can’t make a profit feeding high-priced hay year-round,” Miller stated.

Curtis Timmons saw the writing on the wall early. “You hate to let them go. They’ve been with you for 10 years but it’s just how cards were dealt this year.” He says the eight cattle he currently has will be the start of a new stock come spring next year.

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