Prospects loom large for a severe hay shortage across Alaska, and resulting high prices, as winter approaches.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is urging livestock producers and others to “tighten their management practices” and contact suppliers to ensure that they have enough high-quality hay for the months ahead.

The shortage is due to extreme weather conditions during this year’s growing season, a DNR press release notes. “During times of hay shortage, there is a tendency to ration and use any available hay or alternative. Feeding with poor-quality hay can have both short- and long-term consequences for animal health due to potential issues such as poor digestibility, low nutrient content, and contamination with noxious weeds.”

Potential impacts include nutritional problems, lower body conditions and reduced energy reserves to meet the increased demands during winter. “This elevated stress can lead to infections, poor conception rates and poor calf or foal survival in the spring.”

Along with ensuring supply, hay users were encouraged to find ways to prevent waste, use covered feeders and contact veterinarians for specific guidelines on managing feed schedules.

According to a Nov. 5 story in the Anchorage Daily News, one supplier in the Palmer area has been selling Alaska-grown hay for $500/ton and hay imported from Canada at $650/ton. In the Fairbanks area, prices of  $750/ton were reported.

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