AUSTIN The Texas Department of Agriculture has reactivated its Hay Hotline to put ranchers who need hay in touch with producers who have hay for sale.
The Hay Hotline lists some 194 producers across the State of Texas who have hay for sale. It also lists another 189 producers in 18 other states who have hay for sale.
"The Hay Hotline is an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to locate forage during this difficult time," Texas Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry says. "The hot, dry weather continues to take its toll on range and
pastureland across Texas, and producers in scattered areas need additional forage supplies for their livestock."
Ranges and pastures across the state are not providing adequate grazing, and producers are depleting carryover hay stocks, Perry says. Many pastures and hay fields have not had sufficient regrowth following the first hay cutting. In some parts of the state, producers were not able to get a first cutting.
"We want to make sure that our livestock producers have access to adequate forage supplies this summer and into the fall and winter months," Perry says. "The Hay Hotline is a precautionary measure since there is no federal emergency feed program this year."
Although the part of the state that needs forage the worst right now appears to be East Texas, officials expect that need to widen as the summer wears on and winter approaches.
Beverly Boyd, with TDA, says the Hay Hotline is going well.
"We're averaging anywhere from 80 to 100 calls a day," she says. "Probably more than half of those are from people who need to buy hay."
She says most of the calls from people looking for hay are from East and Southeast Texas.
"We're assuming that as conditions worsen, they're probably going to spread westward," she said.
The program, which started the end of June, will continue as long as producers need it, Boyd says.
Right now, it appears there are shoppers but few buyers.
Among those selling hay over the hotline this year are John and Debra Winder in Calhoun County, near Port Lavaca.
"We've had several calls," Mrs. Winder says, "but we're not sold out."
They offer small square bales of coastal bermuda hay at $4 a bale, f.o.b.
"We've gotten quite a few calls," Winder agrees, "just not many takers."
Although Winder's only gotten an inch and a half of rain since March along the Gulf Coast, his hay field was irrigated.
The rain "was spread out enough that it never really did much of anything," he says, "but we're irrigated, so we're in good shape."
Farther south, Rolano Pena of Hildalgo County, who also has irrigated hay fields, hasn't gotten any calls off the Hay Hotline number.
"I haven't had a one," he says.
Pena says he had a buyer a couple of weeks ago from about 80 miles away, but he couldn't haul it over to him.
"This other contact was by word of mouth," he says. "I've been surprised, as much as I've been reading, that I haven't had any calls on it."
Despite being in one of the driest parts of the state, Pena says his hay quality is good.
"I've got 47 five-by-five round bales," he says. "It's fertilized coastal. "Right now, it's probably the best tasting stuff out there."
In addition, his brother has another 20 or 30 round bales available.
Butch Fuqua, at the other end of the state, says hes gotten a few calls about the hay he has listed on the Hay Hotline.
"I've had about four different people call me," says Fuqua, in Randall County near Amarillo. "One lady from Nacogdoches, a fellow from down by Austin, one by College Station, and one down at Big Sandy."
Fuqua says he told them what he had, and they told him they'd call back.
"I haven't had a real positive response yet," he says.
Fuqua offers alfalfa, oat and fescue grass hay in small squares. The alfalfa is priced at $3.75 a bale. He says he has a neighbor that has some priced at $2.50 for small bales and big squares priced at $50 a ton.
"He's also got the means to deliver them," Fuqua says.
It takes about $1.90 a mile to deliver.
Larry McLemore of Borger has been getting a few calls, too.
"I've had three calls off the hotline," he says. "One of them was from way down at Corsicana. I was too far away to be of any help to them."
The other two calls were from around Pampa in neighboring Gray County.
Clint Williams of Carson County says a lady called him about some alfalfa hay, but that wasn't what he had. Most of the alfalfa he knows of is to the north of him.
"I've had one call from a lady who was really looking for alfalfa," Williams says. "What I have is sudan hay. I don't know whether anybody's looking for that right now."
It's a year old. He had it analyzed and the protein was still pretty good in it, he says.
Williams says he figures he'll be able to sell it if ranchers don't get some relief from the weather soon.
"I'd just as soon see us get some relief," he says. "This hay can wait."
It may not just be the hot, dry summer when the Hay Hotline is needed most.
"I know there are a lot of people with cattle that are worried about what's going to happen this winter," Williams says.
The hay listed on the Hay Hotline ranges from alfalfa to coastal bermuda to prairie grass to blue grass to oats, wheat and Matua.
Suppliers appear to be spread out across the state. The out-of-state list includes Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Utah, as well as Iowa, Missouri, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Hay producers in Mississippi and Alabama are also listed.
Producers with hay can call the toll-free number and be put on a list of suppliers, TDA officials said. Ranchers who need hay can call and request a list of hay suppliers. An up-to-date list will be mailed to them the day they
call. The list of suppliers is also on TDAs Internet website at www.agr.state.tx.us.
The Hay Hotline number is (877) 429-1998 (UPS-HAY-1998), TDA officials said. The hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is a free call.
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