In 2011, when crops dried up during the drought in Texas, Wisconsin farmers, who had a surplus of hay, offered theirs to keep animals alive.
Outagamie County Dairy and Livestock Agent Zen Miller says in Texas "they were running out of water, running out of feed."
Since 2011, drought conditions have spread north and damaged even more crops.
"About 50 years, this is the lowest inventory we've had in hay and we had the worst drought we've had in 50 years," said Miller.
The nationwide shortage has lead to a price jump everywhere, including Wisconsin.
There are some farmers who are looking for hay but it's very expensive," adds Miller. "Real high quality hay is $300 (a ton) and more in southern Wisconsin, I've heard up to $400 a ton."
Miller says $400 a ton is about double the normal rate.
Dairy farmer Mark Petersen of Appleton didn't pay that much for hay this year, but what he did shell out is still a record high for him. He purchased 25,000 pounds of the animal food to supplement the supply he harvested last spring. He says he paid $300 dollars a ton, which is 50 percent more this year than last year.
But, Petersen says it was necessary because he believes this winter a thick layer of ice covering his alfalfa crops, which he uses for hay, may kill it.
"We don't quite know if there's going to be a winter kill or not so, I'm going to buy a little bit, just as a cushion to make sure we've got some elbow room in case I have to reseed any amount," says Petersen.
With low hay inventory and sky-high prices, Zen Miller says it's making some farmers rethink their future.
"Some people will probably decide instead of waiting two, three or four more years to retire, maybe I'll retire from the dairy business now," says Miller.
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