A variety of factors have led to the current shortage of a hay supply North Texas is experiencing.
Ben Wible is a farmer along Highway 289 west of Sherman who grows hay for the local market. He is also a state director for the Texas Farm Bureau and said there has been a noticeable shortage of hay in parts of North Texas, including Grayson County.
“This is unusual for our area,” Wible said. “It has happened maybe twice in the last 30 years.”
It’s kind of a desperate situation for some, he said, as prices go up, people start looking elsewhere. If the area gets snow before the animals that eat hay get fed, it could be critical for them.
Wible said he normally has about 500 acres of wheat, but with the army worms having wiped out his pastures, he didn’t end up with any wheat. His plan is to bring hay in from northern Oklahoma or southern Kansas to meet his needs.
Tiffany Stroud, a team leader for Tractor Supply Company in Sherman, said it’s been hard for the business to fulfill customers’ needs.
“It has been really bad — it’s so bad some people who normally bail it and sell it are looking to buy for themselves,” Stroud said. “It has gone up to $120 a bail from normally $60-$75 a bail. Square bails that are normally $9.99 are up to $12 a bail. We have been completely out for a week. We are even out of compressed bails.”
Stroud blamed a lot of the issues on the drought earlier in the summer and the persistent rains during the harvest season. She said there might be hay out there in some places but the quality is on the decline.
“The supply is extra short,” Stroud said. “The drought coupled with the floods has left us coming up short. People are now selling their old stock, just to get anything. Bermuda hay is for feeding livestock. Straw is used for bedding, there is plenty of straw so far. When they get low on hay, people will feed their livestock more grains, which will cost more than feeding them hay.”
Randy Morgan, manager of Denison Farm and Ranch, echoed Stroud’s comments, saying he’s having to turn to out of state suppliers.
“We had too much rain, then there was a problem with the army worms in the area,” Morgan said. “Before that, the summer drought hurt the early crop.”
He said the suppliers began to get worried back in August when the rains wouldn’t let up. He said between that and the army worms, it’s been a tough time for growers and sellers alike. Morgan said many people with livestock are having to turn to brokers on the internet to deliver from out of state. He said that just further increases the costs.
Morgan said his firm had to order supply from Kansas back in 2010 and though things haven’t been quite that bad as of yet, it’s still too early to tell whether they will be. He said there won’t be a new crop until at least May, so things are going to be tough for some cattle producers in the near future.
“In this area, people were caught them off guard,” Morgan said. “They were expecting there to be more than there is. Most sellers are hanging on to what they have.”
He said it’s important for animals to get some sort of grazing through the winter, either hay or grass, but he said they still need to supplement that with protein. Morgan said the weather was a major factor for the short supply, with the army worms the rains brought out being a major culprit as well.
“The army worms came in eating up the pasture,” Morgan said. “We had more worms this year than usual. A lot of the weather conditions brought them out. Army worms can eat a whole hay pasture overnight.”
Morgan said his store sells square and round bails. Right now, he said he still has square bails but the round ones are out. He said it’s the large round bails most people use to feed their cattle.
Art Mehos of Carpenter’s Bluff Hay Ranch in Denison said it’s all about how the grower handles their business. He said he sells a higher end hay and has multiple sources, so his business hasn’t been affected as he doesn’t buy or sell based on price.
“Our operation is sales focused,” Mehos said. “We sell on the quality of the hay, others sell on the price. We get a good price anyway. I try to help customers with how the hay will help them, not just is it available. Our supply has been really good. We typically produce a lot — we have irrigation. We even had a cutting after the rain. We got enough for our needs this year. There have been a lot of other grows who didn’t make as much as they expected this year. There’s not enough local hay, those customers are having to go elsewhere.”
Mehos said a lot of it went back to the drought. He said his operation wasn’t hurt but he knows a lot of smaller producers who were.
“It was hard for producers to cut and bail,” Mehos said. “You need a good seven to 10 days of dry weather if you got a lot of land to properly dry it out and bail it. There was so much intermittent rain, producers couldn’t do that.”
Mehos said it all comes down to planning. He said if a seller has a lot of contacts, that person can get product from multiple sources. He said a lot of producers in the area are small, growing on 30-40 acres. He said they grow enough for the season and sell it off every year. He said the big operators who buy and sell and produce a lot of hay will have plenty of hay for their customers.
“You’ve got to be good at selling hay,” Mehos said. “You can’t just be good at making it and selling it at the lower price. You have to be able to help customers understand how it’s going to help their cattle.”
He said for his operation to be successful he ends up explaining to customers how to manage their animals’ hay intake so it ends up saving those customers money in the long run.
“There are a lot of smaller producers in our area,” Mehos said. “You don’t have a lot of big hay producers. They get good at bailing their hay, they still need to know how to develop markets.”