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Hay prices unheard of in BC

Western Canada’s 2015 drought and soaring hay prices are leaving their marks, as hay suppliers are taking advantage of it.

I fully agree, small hay farm operations have it tough some years. If you don’t have irrigated fields and you depend on the weather, a mixture of sunshine and rain at the right time, you might just be out of luck.

This year the rain didn’t come and summer arrived much too early. Farmers didn’t get a good hay crop. The heat was extreme and we had a drought all over Western Canada. This caused problems in the cattle industry. Beef prices are higher than they have been for years, finally giving the cattle farmers a break and a reason to enlarge their herds.

But then came the bad news, that there wasn’t enough hay. Hay prices started to soar. As bad as this is for the folks who need hay for their livestock, a threat of a hay shortage means business is booming for the large hay suppliers. They purchase the hay from areas not affected by the shortage, but prices still go up.

Large hay operations in British Columbia stepped in quickly and shipped hay to Alberta and Saskatchewan for top Dollars. The small farmers in the area sold out fast. And now, there is not much hay left to buy.

The lucky people with large barns filled them earlier on, when prices were still more reasonable. The less fortunate ones are trying to buy more hay now to have enough feed for winter.

This drought caused low hay production, which means less income for the hay farmers, I fully get it. So there is a shortage of hay, which means that people get worried and they are willing to pay big bucks to get it.

What happened to ‘Help your neighbour’?  This way of life somehow seems to have lost its meaning. Everyone seems to be after profit and take advantage of the first chance they get.

Us smaller horse owners, we usually reserve hay at the beginning of the hay season and we agree on a bale price. We pick up the hay or get it delivered as needed or as space in our barns allows.

This year, some hay farmers didn’t allow us to do that. One load at a time only, because the price will go up for the rest. I was quite disgusted when I heard this.

Then some farmers got together and agreed to raise the hay price. Now is the time to make money! Can you smell the greed?

Here we are complaining about large corporations. What’s going on here on a smaller scale, isn’t it just as bad?

If selling hay is part of a business, I realize that the income from the hay sale is needed to keep the farm going.  By getting a low hay crop because of a drought a reasonable price adjustment is expected by customers.

To charge extremely high prices for hay is not accepted. Hay prices never get lowered during the years when farmers have an extensive crop.

But the biggest problems are the large suppliers, they are the ones who take the most advantage.

What about all the people who suffer because of crazy hay prices?

Because of the roaring hay prices, horses are not worth anything. Many horse owners can’t afford to buy hay to feed their horses over winter and have to get rid of them.

The older horses are put down, some of the younger well-trained ones you can give away if you’re lucky, and lots of the young horses go for meat. For a horse owner like myself, this is an emotional disaster and breaks my heart.

I operated a horse riding business for over ten years, a rewarding but tough business. Rewarding, because the experiences at the ranch changed many people’s lives. Tough, because the season is short. The high costs of feeding the herd all year round is a large financial burden. To give my guests a horse experience to remember and to show them a simple way of backcountry living was always my main purpose in business.

For over 10 years I had between 10 and 12 horses to feed. I feed hay all year round and don’t have hay of my own.

To get hay and fill the barn just before the snow comes for a reasonable price has never been an issue in previous years. Prices got up, but very reasonable and fair.

I remember years ago when I first got into the horse business. All hay used to be sold by the ton, even the square bales. Then hay farmers realized that horse owners prefer small square bales and that selling the hay per bale brings more profit. That’s okay, we adapted to the bale price and it never got questioned again.

I had my barn filled early this season, just after the new crop. The hay farmer I have been doing business with for the last few years is one of the most honest and fair farmer in the valley. He charged 50 cents more per bale this year, delivery included. Wow, thanks! Unfortunately, he told me that this was all the hay he had for me, he had no more.

Now, my hay barn is getting empty. In my case, I would need another 900 hay bales until spring. I started to look around and was shocked.

At one place I was offered small bales for $15 per bale. And then I saw an ad on Kijiji from a farmer in Armstrong, $19 per bale. HEY you guys, are you crazy? How can you be so greedy? It didn’t cost you more to get these bales of the fields and a price like this is just horrendous.

What will be the result of all this? Many horse people can’t afford to buy high-priced feed and will get rid of their horses. Fewer horses mean less hay will be needed next year. So what will you do with your hay when nobody will buy it anymore? You can keep it stored in your barns or have it rot away in your fields.

Talking about hay rotting away. I always wondered about bales left in fields or in front of hay barns and rotting away.  No way anyone will get them for free. Even dusty and mouldy hay still has a price tag, nothing is for free.

It will be interesting to see how hay prices will evolve in 2016. Will the hay sellers be fair and drop the hay price if they get a reasonable crop? Or will they keep prices high with the explanation of having to catch up for this year’s losses?

And if there is another drought in 2016, will the hay price double from this year?

This won’t affect me anymore. I sold a couple of my amazing horses earlier in the season and gave the rest away for peanuts and some even for free. I have a couple of horses left, but this won’t be a big deal.

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All content of this blog is based on Yrene Dee’s personal opinion only.

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Tell us in the comment section how the high hay prices are affecting you.

Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.

1 Comment

  1. Douglas Chen

    Tophay from Vanderhoof BC is planning to tap BC hay market other than the establishment overseas market. We are thinking about the “feed-depot” in some strategic locations. Any advice on the business model will be appreciated.

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