CENTRAL KENTUCKY -- Ample rains could mean a bountiful hay crop in Kentucky later this summer, and succulent spring grass is popping up in farm fields for horses and cattle to eat until the hay is ready, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.
But Kentucky's hay crisis is far from over, agriculture officials warn.
"As soon as hay does become available this year, everybody's going to grab for it," says Tom Keene, hay marketing specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "The people who raise hay are going to say, 'This stuff is really popular, so I don't see any reason to lower my prices now," reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"Even if we have a really good hay crop this year, I don't see prices softening a great deal."
Mac Stone, executive director of marketing for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, agreed. He noted that Kentucky is starting the year with essentially no reserves of hay, the Herald-Leader reports.
"We've emptied out all the barns and the hay sheds," Stone said. "Until we get the reserves built back up, and see what kind of weather patterns we're going to get, we won't know what kind of pressure there's going to be on the sale of hay this year."
That might not be encouraging news for many Kentucky horse owners, who have been staggered by high hay prices over the past few months. Many simply have been unable to afford the hay needed to properly maintain their horses, the newspaper reports.
Stone said his office received a call last week from a man who wanted to give away several horses "to anyone who could afford to feed them." Such reports have been common across Kentucky since the end of last year.
Cattle farmers also have been hit hard. Many have had to sell off animals they couldn't afford to feed -- much as horse owners have had to do, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
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