Beef producers in parts of northern California are bracing for high hay prices this winter and may even have to pare down their herds. Because of dry, windy weather last spring, many pastures were depleted by the time livestock producers moved herds to summer grazing areas.

“A lot of people were counting on a wet, warm fall to bring back green grass in their winter pastures,” says Glenn Nader, Extension livestock advisor for University of California in Yuba, Sutter and Butte counties. “But that didn’t happen. We did get a little rain last month. But it came too late. If we don’t get some unusually warm weather in December, things might germinate, but we won’t get any kind of rapid growth until next spring.”

The dry spell also severely crimped hay production in the region. As a result, stock cow hay that was bringing $100-130/ton a year ago is now selling for $200-220/ton.

“Some cattlemen will buy hay at these prices for a short period. But if the drought continues, more people will start selling off cows while beef prices are still high.”

To contact Nader, call 530-822-7515 or email

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