Drought affects hay supplies for valley’s horse boarders | AspenTimes.com

Drought affects hay supplies for valley’s horse boarders

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Horse boarders in the Roaring Fork Valley are facing hay shortages due to the drought.

According to some valley ranchers, the dry, windy weather is substantially curtailing hay production both locally and statewide.

“It’s so dry it’s hard to get anything wet and keep it wet,” said Richard Murr, a hay supplier at Murr Ranch in New Castle.

Although he’s already had a first cutting from this year’s hay crop, Murr said he was “way short” and has raised the price per bale to an undisclosed amount.

Some boarders say hay they normally buy at $4 per bale has gone up to $8 or $9 per bale, and may reach $12 at the end of this summer. As a direct result, the cost of boarding a horse in the valley could sharply increase.

“I contracted for x number of tons, and my supplier has called and said they can only provide me with half of that,” said Martha Coloison, co-owner of Skyline Ranch in Carbondale. “In the Carbondale Co-Op I heard a guy say his father has a small field that normally yields 40 tons on first cut, but this year his first cut was only 12.5 tons. It’s just a lack of water: there’s no rain. Even if you get water to irrigate, it’s not as much because the rivers are so low.”

Coloison, who boards about 65 horses, said she is not yet alarmed at the shortage, but may have to get this year’s supply of hay from Kansas or Utah. But an increase in the cost of boarding a horse will be on the horizon, she said.

“I’m sure it’s going to happen to everyone, but we’ll try to be real considerate and not have high boarding fees,” Coloison said. “Even the pastures are not as high as they usually are. The horses can only nibble so much in the summer, and you have to supplement that with hay, so you’re feeding the horses year-round. If you don’t pull the horses off the pastures, pretty soon you don’t have any pastures at all – you just have dirt fields.”

Murr said he has been getting calls from customers trying to stockpile hay for the winter months.

“A lot of people are buying their entire supply ahead of time, when normally they buy a little at a time,” he said. “And a lot of people are going out of the area to get hay. But there’s a shortage elsewhere, too.”

At Cozy Point Ranch in Aspen, manager Monroe Summers said he isn’t having a problem finding hay because last summer he bought too much.

“Two years ago we had a really tough hay year when it rained all during the summer and people were not able to get their crops in,” he said. “I bought all the hay in sight, and now I still have enough left to carry through this winter if I buy a little more.”

Summers said he has heard the price of hay is up, and he is directing people to some hay suppliers that may be able to help.

“I’m feeling for once in my life real lucky because I’m in good shape haywise,” Summers said. “I know there are some people out there who aren’t taking new boarders. We’re going to do our best to keep [boarding] prices where they are.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com.]