'It’s close to $600 (a ton), which is almost double!' Ranch owner T.K. Nobear says
(Update: Adding video, comments from ranch, stable owners)
SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Eagle Bear Ranch owner T.K. Nobear buys mixed orchard grass hay, along with other types, to care for her alpacas and up to 24 horses. But with the soaring cost of hay, she's had to turn people away from her horse boarding facility in Sisters.
"This year, in particular, it has definitely been a dramatic increase," Nobear said Wednesday.
With hay prices on the rise and other agriculture costs also soaring due to inflation, Eagle Bear Ranch is just one of many Central Oregon ranches negatively impacted and scrambling for alternatives.
“Last year, I averaged about $300 a ton," Nobear said.
A big difference from what she’s paying now: “It’s close to $600, which is almost double!" Nobear said.
About 30 tons of hay fit in Nobear's barn, and she said she only has two to three tons left. Although her supply usually falls lower in June, at this same time last year, Nobear said she still had about six to eight tons to work with.
Cody Koch, the owner of Black Butte Stables in Sisters, takes care of about 100 horses.
"Last year, I think we paid about $260 a ton, and this year it’s looking to be right about $390 a ton of orchard grass hay," Koch said.
The price spike is impacting their operations.
“With the hay prices going up, I have definitely had to increase my fees that people have had to reimburse me for, in terms of what it costs to feed their animals," Nobear said.
Like many others in a similar bind, Nobear is waiting for the June supply of hay to be farmed.
Koch says he's been forced to sell some of his horses because he wasn't able to sustain their food supply during the winter.
According to Northwest Farm Credit Services' March 31 Hay Market Snapshot, "Hay inventory is low across the Northwest and prices are at record levels."
"This is indicative of low inventory following drought in 2021," the organization said. "High input prices and water availability will dissuade many producers from expanding hay production in 2022."
Alfalfa prices in Oregon ranged from $260 per ton for low-quality hay to $340 per ton for high-quality, small, square bales. Orchard grass in small, square bales is trading as high as $400 per ton, NFCS said.