Drought in Arkansas and elsewhere is forcing Arkansas ranchers to reach deeper into their pockets to keep hay under the noses of their livestock.

“Hay in northern Arkansas is very expensive due to very low supply,” said John Jennings, professor-forage, for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “The drought greatly reduced yield and there is no carry over from previous years.”

Jennings said the only readily available hay in surrounding states is in parts of East Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

“The hay crop in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois is very short, so shipping from producers that used to be considered close, is nil. Shipping from the southern states adds about $30-$35 per bale to the price for trucking.

“Most calls I got this year from those areas had hay priced at $40-45 per bale there. Add $35 and that becomes $75-80 when it gets here. If a hay broker is in the mix, they want a cut too, so that adds to the price.”

An additional complicating factor has been fire ants. Many parts of Arkansas and the South are under a fire ant quarantine, meaning hay has to be inspected to ensure that it would not become a moving van bringing fire ants to fire ant-free counties.

“Some brokers shipping in hay are asking a higher price for inspected, ‘ant-free’ hay compared to other hay. Some hay is coming from south Arkansas where the hay crop was better last year, but still not a surplus.”

Agents in northern Arkansas were reporting these prices:

  • Carroll County has mixed grass round bales at $65-$75, with bermudagrass round bales at $85-$90.
  • Baxter County reported mixed grass round bales at $65 per bale, with that price booked ahead. Prices were rising to $70 this week.
  • Washington County reported $60 on round bales.

Last week’s U.S. Drought Monitor map for Arkansas showed slowly improving conditions in Arkansas. All of the drought, which covered slightly less than half the state, was confined to an area north and west of a line running from Miller County to eastern Fulton County.

For more information about livestock or forages, contact your county extension office, or visit www.uaex.edu, or Arkansas-livestock.com.