Hay directory connects those who have with those who have not
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has launched a Web-based assistance program to connect farmers who have grown more hay than they need to those who don't have enough or any at all.
Ohio's Hay Directory, along with other drought-related information, is available online at agri.ohio.gov.
Erica Pitchford, ODA communications director, said the hay directory is a resource through which people who have an abundance of hay could advertise its availability.
"Theoretically, anyone in need of hay can go to the directory and purchase what is being made available there," she said. "We would encourage anyone keeping animals to consider it a resource."
The directory is the result of an executive order signed by Gov. John Kasich in July to help farmers through what is being called the worst agricultural drought in 50 years.
The ODA has been scheduling informational meetings around the state to provide crop and livestock farmers with information on farming in a drought and on accessing available relief resources.
Gahanna's Dr. Peter Meuse, of Bella Vista Equine, said he's constantly trying to help find homes for horses whose owners can't afford to keep them.
"It's a cumulative effect we're seeing with the economy and people not having as much money and hay prices," he said.
He's a veterinarian with clients in Gahanna, Blacklick, Dublin, New Albany and Delaware.
"Unfortunately, a lot of my clientele have definitely been affected by the recession, but they haven't had to get rid of their horses," he said. "There are more horses up for adoption because people can't afford hay prices."
Meuse said it has been difficult to find quality hay.
"I'm seeing more hay with a lot more weeds throughout it," he said.
Come January and February, Meuse said, it will be very difficult to find hay.
Brent Fetters, co-manager of Granville Milling in Johnstown, serves customers within a 20-mile radius, including Licking County and some of Franklin County.
"The hay supply is very short," he said. "We came out of winter with plenty of moisture. We were saturated with water the first of May. We got off to a good start. The first cutting was a little earlier than normal, but after that things started drying up. Alfalfa hay is deep-rooted. If we're short on water, you end up with fewer bales."
He said hay prices are 50 percent higher than they were last year, when one could find square bales for $4 apiece.
"Several weeks ago at auction, it was going from $8 to $10 a bale from the first cutting," Fetters said.
He said round bales are going for as much as $65.
For horse owners, Fetters said, a grain called "hay stretcher" is being produced.
"It's a source of roughage and could help stretch hay through the winter," he said. "It will boil down to the price of that feed to hay. Hopefully, it will make economic sense."
Fetters recommends conserving as much hay as possible early on.
"Come next March early April, I don't think there will be much hay at all," he said.
Fetters, who formerly operated the Johnstown Feed, said central Ohio is in fair shape compared to Illinois and Indiana, where some corn crops didn't even tassel.
"If we get a good saturation with the hurricane coming through, it will help pastures," he said. "For some folks, if they have a decent amount of pasture, they may get enough relief to get through to Thanksgiving to have something for (animals) to graze on. That would relieve some demand on the hay."