Relief may be in sight for horse owners and cattle ranchers who have struggled to meet high hay costs during the drought.
Though rain has been plentiful this summer, Gene and Cassie Goering of McPherson say only time will tell whether hay prices continue to drop.
The Goerings own five horses and three ponies, and Gene Goering has a cattle herd. Gene Goering said the recent drought made hay scarce, which drove up the prices.
“A few years ago, I could buy a round hay bale for $35 or $40,” Gene Goering said. “That got up to $130 during the drought.”
Gene Goering said the recent rain has dropped the price to $60 per bale. However, he said whether the price stays low would depend on future weather.
The high cost of hay has faced many cattle and horse owners with the decision of whether to pay more for hay or sell their animals. For Gene Goering, thinning his herd was the solution.
“It gets to a point where it’s just not possible to buy food for that many cattle,” Gene Goering said.
Cassie Goering, Gene Goering’s 17-year-old daughter, said the decision has been more difficult for horse owners. High food cost has lowered the demand for horses, which means buyers won’t pay as much for the animals. In addition, many people who can’t afford food have been trying to sell, creating a surplus of horses on the market.
Cassie Goering said the end result has been horses are worth next to nothing, and owners have either accepted a loss on the sale or found ways to meet rising food costs. She said her family bought a yearling for $50 that would have cost $300 or $400 under better circumstances.
Cassie Goering said her family considered selling one of their horses at one point, but eventually decided against it.
Gene Goering said hay’s unusually high cost has made it a more appealing target for thieves. He said he used to leave bales near the road, but now he keeps them farther away to deter would-be theft.
Gene Goering also said hay producers from other states have been taking advantage of the lack in Kansas by selling their hay at higher prices. However, he said that’s just the way the business works.
“Four years ago, Kansas was doing the same thing to them when they were in drought,” Goering said. “What goes around comes around.”
Cassie Goering said the hay market’s recovery has helped the horse market recover as well, and horses are now being sold for what they’re worth. However, Gene Goering said it will take some time for recovery to be complete.
Page 2 of 2 - “People have seen what horses are worth in drought,” he said. “There’ll be some reluctance for a while.”
He said the same goes for the hay market. Though there is a lot of hay, Gene Goering said there’s still the potential for a scare.
“If we get another good year with rainfall, I hope the prices go down,” he said.
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