Drought causes drop in hay production, hanging local farmers out to dry

By: 
RaeLynn Ricarte
Editor, Statesman Examiner

Hay yields in the western United States have dropped dramatically this year due to extreme drought conditions and that has raised prices enough that many ranchers are culling cattle herds to reduce production costs.

“This is not the time to be building a herd,” said Loren Lentz, who has grown hay on his Lazy L Ranch near Clayton for more than three decades.

Lentz serves on the board of directors for the Northeast Washington Hay Growers Association and the Washington State Hay Growers Association. He said farmers who irrigate crops have not sustained losses, but those who rely on spring moisture to grow their crops are hurting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reporting that pasture conditions are the worst ever since 1994, with 44% in poor and very poor condition.

The Livestock Marketing Information Center reports that, in Washington State, 51% of pastures are in poor condition.

Lentz typically cuts 3,400 tons of hay, but anticipates a harvest of only 1,700 tons this year.

Because plants deprived of water are stressed, they are less healthy, said Lentz. So, they are more susceptible to spider mite infestations, which many farmers are also now battling.

"This is another big problem,” he said.

The combined situation has ranchers scrambling to find feeder hay for their livestock, and the increased demand has driven prices up by $25-50 per ton and they are still climbing.

Even those prices won’t offset the lowered yield for growers, Lentz said. Adding to that problem is rising inflation and fuel prices that have affected all other aspects of farming, from transportation to equipment purchases.

Find the full story in the June 23, 2021 edition of the Deer Park Tribune.

Category:

ev eşyası depolama