Hey, Where Did All The Hay Go?

I'll have a burrito supreme, a large Mountain Dew, a bale of straw and a bale of grass hay, please. Oh, and extra hot sauce. My horse just loves hot sauce.

Over the next few months, horse owners in Arizona and beyond might be wishing they could pull up to Taco Bell and order a few bales of hay.

The ongoing drought conditions across much of the United States and Canada is likely to have a serious impact on the supply of hay for the coming winter. That’s not good news for horse owners, who paid record high prices for hay in many areas of the U.S. in 2011.

As of mid-July 2012, 62 percent of farms in the U.S. were experiencing drought. ~USDA Economic Research Service

Even though horse hay prices have dropped off from last year’s highs in many areas, diminished yields in the dry areas mean the supply likely will be tight going into the winter. It might be sensible for horse owners, especially larger boarding and breeding barns, to start considering alternatives to stretch the hay dollars.

In some states, such as Arizona, ongoing drought conditions and other challenges – like last summer’s wildfires – have caused feed shortages for dairies and cattle feeders, putting more pressure on horse owners looking for high-quality hay. Add to that the dramatic increase in the amount of U.S. hay exported abroad to countries such as the United Arab Emirates and China and you have the perfect recipe for high prices.

For those with storage space, it probably makes sense to lay in your winter hay stores early to avoid shortages. And large-volume users might benefit from contracting well before the winter demand pushes prices up.

Here’s an overview of current hay prices across the U.S.