Escalating prices are linked to drought conditions in prominent cattle-producing states, such as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
“Our hay prices have been really high this year, and we have started to bundle it up into larger bails to send to other places because of the demand,” said Monte Lerwick, a rancher and farmer in Albin. “It doesn’t even really matter if it’s high quality or not. People just need it because of that drought.”
Hay prices are up nationwide, where the average cost for non-alfalfa hay moved from $95 per ton last year to about $127 per ton now, said Todd Ballard with the US Agricultural Department’s Agricultural Statistics Field Office for Wyoming.
The gains from the rising hay prices could last into next season, added Steve Paisley, an associate professor at the University of Wyoming and beef cattle specialist. “It may be difficult for those in the drought areas to establish crops for next year, as well, so the carry-over could go into next year,” he said.
Drought conditions combined with higher feed prices are forcing ranchers to the south to sell off their stock rather than watch it starve. Much of the cattle being sold off are heading north where the feed is plentiful, Lerwick said.
“There are a lot of cattle heading into the Montana, Dakota and Wyoming region because of these conditions,” Lerwick said. “It’s easier and cheaper to bring the cattle to the feed rather than the other way around.”