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Hay shortage affects East TN farmers | News

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Hay shortage affects East TN farmers


(WBIR) Some East Tennessee hay farmers say it has been a tough year so far with less hay harvested off the fields compared to last year due to a dry and cold spring.

With less hay, farmers have to find other ways to feed their livestock or they have to sell their cattle. Ultimately, it can also mean higher prices at the grocery store.

"It affects prices on all the cattle, beef, dairy cattle, everything. So it's pretty important if you go to the grocery store and eat. It's important," said Mike Zavels of Zavels Family Farm.

Zavels farms on about 300 acres of land in East Knox County. On Wednesday, he finished his second cutting of hay.

"The first cutting we got about a third of the bales that we normally do. The second cutting seems to be a lot better but normally the first cutting is when you get about 70% of your hay. So it's going to be real hard to make it up," Zavels said.

Zavels uses the hay to feed his cattle and sheep. The rest he sells to other farmers.

"A lot of people have already started calling early this year. Normally, it's when the weather really turns cold. But it seems like a lot of them are trying to go ahead and get the hay early so they'll have it," he said.

Two East Tennessee farmers told 10News they have not been affected by the hay shortage. But Knox County Extension Agent Neal Denton said some farmers are harvesting 30% - 70% less hay this year compared to last.

"It is very regional and very spotty. The northern parts of East Tennessee have been drier. North of Broadway here in Knoxville, all the way up to the Kentucky line has really been suffering a fairly severe drought," Denton said.

Moving hay from other states can double the cost.

"Hay is a very expensive thing to transport. Doesn't weigh that much but it's bulky and you can't put a lot of it on a trailer like you can other products," Denton said.

Zavels saved about 100 rolls of hay from last year, in case there was a drought. He usually produces about 600 round bales and 10,000-20,000 square bales.

He said there is still a chance he can have a good year. Zavels Family Farms' third cutting will take place at the end of September.

Zavels expects hay prices to rise, which can also affect beef prices. According the United States Department of Agriculture, beef is about 60 cents more per pound this year compared to this time last year.


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