Hay prices double, even triple, in Renfrew County
By James Pascual
COBDEN ó The price of hay has more than doubled in Renfrew County, forcing some beef farmers to sell off as much as 25 per cent of their herds.
Preston Cull paid $85 in mid-July for a 7 ft. square bale, when the cost is normally about $35 to $40, he said.
"There is just so little hay," said Cobden beef farmer Robert Dobson. The local market for hay is down 50 per cent and supply for sale could be as low as 10 per cent compared to last year, said Dobson. "Nobodyís got hay. Everyone (buyers and sellers) is waiting for someone else to make the first move. Itís like a poker game, waiting for someone to bluff."
A 4 ft. x 5 ft. round bale is selling for $50 and more but sold for $20 to $25 in prevous years, he said. "Iíve even heard $80 a bale. It doesnít make sense to feed that to beef cattle."
Dobson said that they surveyed the 11 producers at the last monthly Renfrew cattlemenís meeting and six said they were short of hay. "Everyone but one said 100 big bales (4 ft x 5 ft.) should do it. One person at the table said he needed 200 bales."
Dobson, who has 160 head (Red Angus and Charolais cross), said his first-cut hay was 85 per cent of a normal yield but he didnít get a second cut. On July 2 he started feeding his cattle baled hay on July 2. But he usually doesnít get into the baled hay until late October or early November.
"My story is not unlike the majority of beef farmers," Dobson said. "I didnít find one person who didnít feed baled hay in July. That hasnít happened before. This is the major disaster story of the year."
He added that how beef farmers fare depends on three things: how much hay carry-over they had from last year; how much hay they bought in mid-June before prices soared; and whether or not the farmer had crop insurance.
Gerald Rollins, an Ontario Cattlemenís Association director and 170-head cow-calf operator in Renfrew, said he downsized his herd by almost 25 per cent when the hay price shot up. "I would say it doubled, even tripled (in price)."
He said he sees nothing that will change prices unless hay arrives from generous farmers in Western Canada, who are organizing relief efforts.
The summer drought hit much of Ontario but "Renfrew and the Pontiac and parts of Lanark were the worst hit in the province," he said.