PARKER, Colo. (CBS4) – The drought conditions that have been in effect across much of Colorado this year have created a hay shortage, and hay prices in Colorado and other parts of the Rockies are at historic highs.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture says that more than 60 percent of the state is experiencing extreme drought. There wasn’t much snowpack this winter, and there hasn’t been much rain, and many hay fields rely soley on rain to grow.
Some growers who normally can cut, bale and sell hay from their hay fields two to three times a summer are only harvesting a fraction of that.
Many farmers are having to keep the hay for their own livestock this year, meaning there’s less for sale.
Some ranchers are also selling their cattle because the plains don’t have enough food. They can’t afford to buy hay to feed them now and throughout the winter.
Herman Schacht has owned Parker Feed and Western Supply for more than 40 years. Even though there’s less hay in the state, he has still been able to buy from Colorado growers and sell it his customers, but because of low supply and high demand it has cost more.
“It’s just the hardest part this year is to find good hay,” Schacht said.
Other local feed stores have been forced to buy their hay from other states, which is a costly move. Trucks have to haul it across state lines, and transportation and freight costs have gone up.
All those costs are passed on to Colorado customers, according to Schacht. Dairy cows are fed hay, and if that is more expensive so is milk and cheese. If it’s more expensive to feed cattle, meat costs will go up. The drought has also affected many commodities like the grains found in cereals and even in dog food — meaning those, too, will cost more.
If local businesses, growers and ranchers are spending more to stay afloat, they are spending less in the communities they live in. It’s a vicious chain reaction whose roots lie in dry prairies.
Many suppliers are suggesting people stock up on hay now if they can. The prices are expected to go even higher over the winter, and supplies may run out.
“Small business just keeps getting harder and harder,” Schacht said. “Hopefully next year it gets better.”
At Rosie’s Ranch in Parker, a nonprofit, the staff is stretching the dollars they have to afford the feed for their horses. The ranch gives children who are hearing impaired helpful experiences with horses.
Buying hay that costs two to three times more than what it has been in recent years is forcing them to take things one month at a time.
“We came across a Girl Scout troop that was looking for a service project and they asked if they could do something for Rosie’s Ranch,” Mary Mosher-Stathes said. “So they donated $1,000. We have spent $500 already, and that was basically just for a month and a half.”
“We’re already ready to use the second $500, and that will only take us through till like the first part of October.”