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Increasing hay prices forces Boise rancher to sell cattle

The price of hay has doubled in two years, according to Shadow Butte Ranch in New Plymouth. This is a direct response to the increasing cost of production.

BOISE, Idaho — To leave Shadow Butte Ranch in New Plymouth with one-ton of hay loaded in the back of a flatbed, you would owe Dustin Lenz $350.

Two years ago, Lenz says that same one-ton load cost his customers $180.

"I see people charging a lot more than that. But looking at what my costs are going to be heading into this year, I don't see the price of hay going down at all," Lenz said.

Lenz is a one-man show at the ranch, and he's been in the industry for nearly 20 years. The price of hay increases relative to the cost of production, Lenz said. The cost of fertilizer - and more recently diesel fuel - has Shadow Butte Ranch charging more for hay to cover the additional overhead costs.

These are costs not every customer can afford to cover.

Boise rancher Charlene Fackrell rents a plot of land near the corner of Victory and Vista. She owns a 15-head herd of cattle.

"I love to take care of the cows. It's in my blood," Fackrell said.

Fackrell pays $80 a day to feed her herd; that's three times more than what she paid a few years ago.

"We're missing out as small-time farmers. I don't know how much more I'm gonna do this," Fackrell said. "I'm gonna sell some cattle. They're for sale now. Some of them."

According to Fackrell, some hay farmers are selling one ton of hay for as much as $550.

The profit margin on hay is slim, Lenz said. Producing enough hay to meet demand is difficult on its own.

Due to the ongoing severe drought conditions throughout southern Idaho, Shadow Butte Ranch missed its fourth cut last year. That means they lost 25% of their product because there wasn't enough water at the end of the season to grow hay.

"Not only producing it but being able to market it. Having enough customers that will pay for what you have and trying to make enough money on it to justify trying to do it again the next year," Lenz said.

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