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Hay shortage leaves Texas ranchers scrambling for cattle feed

Faced with extra feed expenses, some Texas ranchers are looking at culling their herds.
Larry Mellenbruch tosses protein supplements to some of his black Angus cattle at his Lazy Two Ranch in Cedar Creek on Tuesday, August 7, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

(AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN) Lack of rain has sent hay prices rising.

Faced with extra feed expenses, some Texas ranchers are looking at culling their herds.

In a good year, the Lazy Two Cattle Company already would have harvested about 1,200 bales of hay by now, the beginning of a stockpile to get its cows, bulls and yearlings through the winter when forage is scarce.

This isn’t a good year.

“We could have a wreck on our hands,” said Larry Mellenbruch, co-owner of the ranch, which is about midway between Austin and Bastrop. “We’ll be trying to buy hay — if there is any out there to buy.”

The Lazy Two, which normally grows its own hay, has been able to harvest only about half as much as normal this summer from its fields near the Colorado River. That’s a trend that has been unfolding across the state as high temperatures and drought conditions in many areas have dried up crops and left ranchers scrambling.

Prices for hay — the primary cattle feed in the winter — have been climbing as a result, with large round bales averaging $55 in Central Texas as of early August, up about 22 percent from $45 a year ago, according to the most recent figures available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prices are expected to keep rising because the growing season ends in a few weeks, and Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension Service already has received reports of bales selling for up to $125 west of Austin.

This story originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman. For the full story, click here.