Drought's lingering effects hurt hay crop, keep beef prices high


Reporter- Briana Conner
Photographer- Jason Thomason

GRAVES COUNTY, Ky.— Farmers and ranchers are adapting to the lingering effects of the drought by investing in irrigation systems and different types of feed, but all of that affects their bottom line. The extra cost gets passed along to consumers.

More often than not, the people on the other end of the phone line are calling Clarks Feed looking for hay. Cattle Stocker Brian McClain said, "Everyone started using hay a lot earlier than expected. They started feeding hay in August instead of in October because of the drought."

The drought is also the reason why producers couldn't grow as much. Clarks Feed Owner Bentley Fuller said a small stack is all he has in stock right now. "It is the worst I've seen it," he said. 

Fuller can usually get a few extra bales from hay producers like Doug Hall, but this time around, he doesn't have any to spare. "I've kept some here for our horses, but to sell to the public... I don't have any," said Hall.

Fuller said a lot of horse and cattle owners are opting for something called pasture in a bag, and he says a little bit goes a long way even though it's more expensive. "The hay in the bag, the initial outlook is gonna be just a little bit more. But, when you look at the efficiency, it's a really great product," he said.

Like Hall... McClain also has just enough hay left to feed his cattle. He said, "It's tough and it's not very fun to be begging people for hay, but I've been in their position before. It's not a very good feeling, because you know you've got cattle to feed."

Most agree that costs won't be going down anytime soon, even if this year's crop is better. Hall said, "You're gonna see beef, probably because of the drought and higher corn prices, you're gonna see that staying up."

Hay producers will start cutting again this year around Memorial day. In the mean time, McCracken County Extension Agent Doug Wilson said the best way to buy or sell hay is to call your local extension office.