MADISON, Wis. - Some farmers are struggling to feed their animals as the price of hay continues to climb.
Tom Kunkel purchased 10 bales of bedding for his dairy farm in Cuba City.
"This is the first time I've bought any this year, but I know I'll need some, so I thought I'd better start looking," Kunkel said.
Kunkel and other farmers at a hay auction in Lafayette County tried to scoop up what they could as prices continue to rise.
"In the past, I've bought it for about $30 a barrel. It ain't out of line yet, but it's getting there," Kunkel said.
Mark Mayer, an agriculture agent with University of Wisconsin Extension, said the ongoing drought is leading to lower hay production.
"We're seeing our hay prices almost over double what was paid in 2012 January versus 2013, so the hay prices have double and almost tripled in this last year," Mayer said.
Mayer said farmers are mixing other things in with hay or using alternative feed to stretch their supply. He said many farmers came into winter with a quarter to a third less feed than normal, forcing them to reduce their herds.
"A lot of farmers are starting to call cattle or, in other words, they're getting rid of some of their low producing, their bottom producers that aren't profitable right now for buying feed," Mayer said.
Kunkel said the wheat straw he bought will last his farm about 40 days -- not long enough to get through the spring.
"I'm afraid that as the winter goes on and the piles diminish, it could be $60-$70 a barrel by spring. That's my fear," Kunkel said.
Mayer said the feed prices will likely be passed onto the consumer with a spike anywhere from 2 to 10 percent in the next few months.
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