Wyoming ranchers struggling with high hay prices - KOTA Territory News

Wyoming ranchers struggling with high hay prices

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Dean Cole, like many ranchers, saw his expenses go up last year.

"There was no moisture and everybody started looking.  There was no hay to be found," said Cole, who has cattle on a pair of sites just outside Sheridan.

And if the current trend for hay prices doesn't reverse, the bottom line will look even worse.

"They went up because of the drought between Montana and from here to Denver.  So the prices got to go up and with diesel at $4 a gallon I don't see how a rancher can make it much longer doing this stuff," said Cole.

Cole was luckier than most, he didn't have to buy nearly as much hay as some of his neighbors.

"Maybe 30 ton, but the ranchers that are buying way more than what I'm buying at $185 to $250 a ton and then $4 a load a mile for trucking," said Cole.

But he knows his supply won't last forever.

"I can tell you right now, if there isn't rain coming and I have no leftover hay, you're going to see the cattle market flooded, because there's going to be a lot of us selling down, for sure," said Cole.

The price of hay has more than doubled over the last few years.

"In 2010, we were around $100 a ton, then into 2012 it was $200 and since last fall it's even gone up to $250 to $260 in our area," said Linda Benzel, Executive Director for the Sheridan and Johnson County Farm Service Agency.

Cole says his worries will fade away fast if the spring brings a decent amount of moisture.

"I'm hopeful that it'll rain sooner or later.  With the snow pack that we got now, there's some promising hope, but we got to have the rain in the spring as well to make the hay grow," said Cole.

"Our drainages are looking pretty good up here on Tongue River and Powder River drainage, so we're doing pretty well there.  We need to have some timely rains this spring," said Benzel.

While Cole holds out hope for 2013, he has to be prepared for more of the same bad luck.

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