As if the drought and reduced crop yields haven't been challenging enough for livestock farmers, there is a new threat that is popping up across rural Iowa—hay theft. Hay prices are high and demand is strong for drought-reduced supplies this winter. The Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers has received numerous reports of hay being stolen across the state and reminds farmers to be vigilant in monitoring their farms as well as their neighbor's farms.
"We are getting reports from farmers who've had hay stolen, hay that they are relying on to feed their livestock," says Brian Waddingham, executive director of CSIF. "Some report single round bales disappearing, some have had entire semi-loads of round bales and some have had flat racks loaded with small square bales stolen. The loss of a semi-load of round bales, which can approach $200 per bale, has serious consequences for not only the farmer's livestock but his bottom line as well."
Common sense things you can do to prevent hay from being stolen
As commodity prices continue rising every farmer should think about how and where they store their feedstuffs. This includes not only corn and soybeans, but hay as well. Farmers should also evaluate what security measures they have in place to deter would-be thieves. "If farmers don't have a plan in place, we encourage them to give us a call to discuss options for their operation," says Waddingham.
He reminds farmers to "store hay close to your farmstead where you can better monitor it. If hay must stay in the field, put a gate across the field entrance and lock it. It's also a good idea to talk to your neighbors and advise them that if they observe suspicious activity at odd hours to have them contact the sheriff's department immediately to report it." For more information call 800-932-2436 or visit the CSIF website.
Hay prices are soaring as hay supplies are tight and buyers bidding strongly
"Hay supplies are tight and buyers are bidding strongly," says Dale Leslein, manager of the weekly hay auction at Dyersville in northeast Iowa. "We've had to turn away some of our long-distance customers because we couldn't fill their orders."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Throughout the country, hay supplies are down. "Oklahoma is screaming for hay," says Leslein. "Missouri is running short; Nebraska is very tight as is Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. They're all running out of hay."
In December, the Dyersville auction sold some alfalfa fifth crop hay for $320 a ton. The relative feed value was 199 for this dairy hay. It was a record price at the auction and it stood for about ten minutes. It was eclipsed by a second crop of orchard grass and alfalfa mix that brought $322.50 per ton.
Hay quality from 2012 crop is excellent, in drought year hay doesn't get rained on
Although hay supplies are short, quality is excellent. "Hay produced in Iowa in 2012 is the best we've ever seen," says Leslein. "In a drought year, hay doesn't get rained on. We're seeing record prices but we've also had the best quality hay and hay producers have been rewarded for that as well."
He adds, "We've been getting overwhelmed with straw some weeks at the auction this winter. Canadian wheat straw is being hauled in here. The price has held up pretty well because many cattle feeders and dairy producers are feeding straw in place of high-priced hay. They're using corn silage and wheat straw, replacing some of the hay in their ration."
The Dyersville auction has even seen a couple loads of forage that's been baled off as a cover crop which was seeded after a soybean crop was harvested in fall of 2012. "There was some winter wheat seeded in early fall that was baled in early December in northeast Iowa," he says. "I've never seen that before."
For the latest information on hay prices and supplies, visit the Dyserville auction website.