With prices remaining at historically high levels in many parts of the country, incidents of hay theft are becoming increasingly more common.

“We’ve had three or four reports of hay being stolen in the last four to six weeks,” says John Schulz, a spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department in northern Colorado. “It’s pretty unusual.”

In the largest incident, occurring over the Labor Day weekend, thieves hotwired a tractor with a front-end loader, then loaded and hauled off 13 large-to-medium square bales and 10 large round bales of alfalfa. Total value of the stolen hay was estimated at about $5,000. Another $800 worth of hay was damaged.

“Making off with those large bales required some planning,” says Schulz. “It’s not like with small bales, where someone could just run out into the field with a pickup, throw the bales in the back and then drive off.”

Rising hay prices likely played a role in the Larimer County thefts, he notes. “They’ve doubled in recent months. The supply here is extremely tight. The drought is partly responsible, but we also lost some hay in a large wildfire this summer.”

The theft problem isn’t limited to Colorado. When Schulz started gathering information for a press release aimed at alerting farmers to the thefts in the area, he came across news reports about similar cases in Texas, California, Maine and several other states. “It has apparently become a problem in England, too,” he says.

To head off thefts, growers should store hay in secure locations and out of sight, if possible, making sure fences are secure and gates are locked. “Simply being aware of what’s going on in your area is important. If you’re driving down the road and something doesn’t look quite right to you, take notice and let authorities know about it.”

As part of a news report on hay thefts, here’s a video report on the Colorado hay thefts, from CBS4 in Denver.

Had any hay-theft problems in your area? We’d like to know more. Email hfg@hayandforage.com.