Feed prices go up during drought in the West

Bob Seaman isn’t apologizing for the high cost of hay because of the drought that has withered crops in many parts of the West.

MILLARVILLE — Bob Seaman isn’t apologizing for the high cost of hay because of the drought that has withered crops in many parts of the West.

“We hadn’t raised our price for five years and our costs have continued to rise,” said the president and CEO of Valley Hay and Cattle Ltd., a sprawling operation along the foothills just south of Calgary.

“It’s payback time for us. We appreciate the opportunity to have this kind of a year.”

At a time when oil prices have hit rock bottom and rainfall levels are below average in many parts of the Prairies, hay has become a bit of a gusher for anyone who has it. In the Calgary area, where rainfall has been close to normal, there are patches of green that can be turned into pure gold.

“It’s been as good as it ever has been,” said Seaman at his home near Millarville on Wednesday.

Seaman said the cost of a small, rectangle bale of hay at his operation has risen to $10 from $7. He anticipates the company will have sold about 140,000 bales by the end of the year — 90,000 of that in guaranteed contracts with stables and ranches.

“We probably had calls starting to come in June and probably have 300 people on a waiting list,” he said.

“We’ve gone through most of them and tried to satisfy what we could, but there’s a lot of demand from north of Edmonton, some from Saskatchewan and B.C.”

Other producers sell hay by weight and an official with the Canfax division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said prices have more than doubled from a year ago.

“We hear reports of over $200 a tonne and, depending on quality, up to $260 for a tonne of hay,” said Brian Perillat, the manager and senior analyst.

Perillat hopes things may have peaked as late-season rainfall is starting to create more pasture.

And while high feed costs will hit producers in the pocketbook, near- record beef prices will help soften the blow. he suggested.

“If you look at the price of calves being so high right now, we’re expecting cow-calf producers to have a very profitable year.”

That means anyone hoping to pick up some steaks for cheap may be out of luck. Statistics Canada reported last week that the price of fresh or frozen beef was up 17.2 per cent from a year ago

“As a consumer I wouldn’t be looking for big price breaks by any means,” Perillat said.