SAN ANTONIO – The drought and triple-digit heat have hit many ranchers hard this summer. The cost of hay bales continues to soar, and the lack of production is leaving suppliers and livestock owners scrambling for options.
“Supply is very low, and our demand is fairly high because the majority of the state of Texas is in some level of drought,” said Vanessa Corriher-Olson, professor and extension forage specialist at Texas A&M. “Producers look to alternatives, so crop residues — other crops that can potentially be harvested for hay. Often producers look for hay supplies outside of our state to have them shipped in or trucked in, which can become very expensive.”
Carl Chapman, owner of Bulverde Feed & Seed, said his customers have felt the brunt of two straight years with higher hay prices.
“This year and last year were bad. Hopefully, we get some rain this fall in the springtime,” said Chapman.
Chapman said during a good production year, he sells bales for around $120. That price spiked to $160 in 2022 and has fluctuated to about $140 this year.
“It’s just harder and harder to get good hay. You can find bad hay anywhere. We’re fortunate. We’ve got suppliers that irrigate and take care of us,” said Chapman.
Jose Martinez owns a shop next to Chapman’s store and owns four horses. He was getting round bales for about $100 just a few months ago.
“Feed expenses have gone up completely, probably about 40% just because of the drought,” said Martinez. “Can you imagine if you own stables and or if you have cattle? It impacts much more.”
“People may have to sell their livestock or reduce their herd size, and some folks have potentially already done that,” said Corriher-Olson.
With fall and winter getting closer, Corriher-Olson said producers and buyers need to take advantage of any rain we get because supply is expected to stay limited and in high demand.
“I always recommend to producers that when we do have good growing conditions to try to build up those hay stocks and store that hay appropriately within a barn or covered shelter to protect it so that it will last longer. So when we do get into scenarios of droughts or high temperatures or fertilizer prices, they have hay on land. They can get them through those challenging times,” said Corriher-Olson.
Chapman said he hopes things turn around soon because this is the most difficult it’s been for his customers in his 30-plus years of owning his feed store.
“There’s always ups and downs. But we’re fortunate. We’ve got good people. They’ve been loyal to us, so that helps,” said Chapman.