Hay shortage hitting area farmers as prices double - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Hay shortage hitting area farmers as prices double

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Strum (WQOW) - An unseasonably rainy spring has alfalfa farmers worried about a shrinking harvest.

As Gary Olson counts his hay bales, he knows he only has enough to feed his cows for about two more weeks. Then he'll need to turn to corn silage or buy from others.

"We've got about 200 dairy cows, including young stock and all, we've got about 350 head on the farm. So they go through a lot of feed of one kind or another every day," Olson said.

The hard-to-come-by hay crop is in short supply this year, a problem that began nearly a year ago.

"Between the droughts of last summer, a large area had winter kill meaning the crop died out over winter, and now with the wet field conditions, probably going to lose one cutting," Olson explained.

And when the locally grown regular alfalfa supply goes down, the UW-Extension says prices are bound to go up.

"You're maybe looking at $200, $170, something like that. That kind of hay was maybe $90 to $100 a ton. So we're seeing that basically doubled," said Jerry Clark, UW-Extension Crops and Soil Educator.

Gary's alfalfa crop is ready to be harvested right now. But getting into the fields has been a challenge.

"The soil is so wet, that you drive out there with a tractor and the other big pieces of equipment, the soil is so soft that you'll sink in, get stuck, leave ruts, tear up the crop," Olson added.

With some luck, there is hope that the hay shortage may not last. But as with any crop, it all comes back to Mother Nature.

"It's early enough in the year where if weather conditions turn around to near perfect conditions, a lot of hay would be harvested yet this year. But there again perfect weather conditions, and we sure haven't had that," said Olson.

The combination of weather issues this year is very unique. The UW-Extension says it hasn't seen a situation like this in at least a decade.

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