Hay Shortage in Southeastern Colorado

By: Josh Earl Email
By: Josh Earl Email

The snow in Southeastern Colorado doesn't seem to be melting, and for ranchers that means buying more hay to feed their cattle. The problem is, there isn't enough to go around.

The cost of hay that is available has almost doubled, forcing some ranchers to cut their losses by selling all their cattle.

Many ranchers are saying the hay shortage is approaching a devastating level. Hay Broker Eddie Hall says, "We weren't prepared for it at all. Locally here it's in pretty tight supply and could get serious."

Cattle generally graze during the winter months. But this year, grass is nowhere to be found. Leonard Pruett, Colorado State University Extension Agent says, "There (are) just no bare areas out there at all."

That makes hay the only option. And coming off years of drought, it is in extremely short supply.

Dennis Thompson, a Baca County Rancher says, "We have never had this happen. Every drop is being fed now and our area is not capable of doing that."

Hall says, "It's going to get worse. People are going to have to feed their cattle from now until summer grass."

And that means buying a lot more hay. But with the supply being as limited as it is, the price has skyrocketed.

Pruett says, "Good quality alfalfa hay was selling for around $100.00 to $110.00 a ton and it's well over $200.00 now."

A price that seems to be throwing some ranchers out of the game.

Thompson says, "They'll sell their cows, take their losses now and maybe buy back next spring or next fall."

"Its going to be devastating on everyone regardless of size", says Pruett.

Dennis Thompson says he's stocked up. But he worries about his neighbors.

"We hope to last until spring ourselves but there (are) several farmers that won't be able to last that long.", says Thompson.

The Colorado Cattlemen's Association has set up an on-line clearinghouse where ranchers can connect with hay suppliers.

That WEBSITE is http://cca.beef.org/

The "Blizzard Information and Donations" link is one of several links on the page that can help ranchers connect with dozens of hay suppliers.

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