Hay comes to the Klamath basin
in a time of need
midmorning on a Saturday, but locals were working as hard as
ever to load up bales of hay at Duarte Sales Auction Yard on
the northwest corner of Ivory Pine Road and Highway 140.
yard belongs to Jeff Wessel, and he opened it up for hay
shipments that mostly came from western Oregon. The
shipments were organized by Timber Unity, a political
organization of mostly farmers, loggers and supporters.
Geof Miller, a
rancher whose land nearly abuts the auction yard, loaded the
trailer of Janice Roberts-Griffin and Scott Griffin with
hay. The Griffins will use some of the hay themselves, and
distribute the rest for other victims of the Bootleg Fire
who lost grazing land, barns and more.
and Griffin live on the forest, and despite losing nearly
everything they owned to the Bootleg Fire, they have been
running hay up to their neighbors for weeks.
As drought in
the Klamath Basin and more generally in the U.S. West
continues, hay is becoming harder to find and more
expensive, forcing many to sell off horses and livestock
that survived the wildfire.
Hay run up the
the hay shipments left at his place under lock and key, to
keep it safe and make sure it is going to those in the most
got to be 200-plus bales there,” Wessel said earlier this
week of the hay at his auction yard. “I don’t know if people
know about it or not, so people would have to call and make
an appointment to get the hay. It’s basically for people
that lost their homes and their barns.”
The hay Miller
loaded for Roberts-Griffin and Griffin was bound for fire
victims. The couple drove the hay and unloaded it by hand,
so people could pick some up to tide their animals over.
a neighbor who lives nearby, stopped by Roberts-Griffin’s
and Griffin’s property in his pickup truck to load some hay
for his four horses. After taking nearly a ton of hay —
about $300 worth — Coggins said the haul was enough to feed
his horses for a week and a half.
Association Board Secretary, Angelita Sanchez, said the
organization has raised upwards of $50 thousand in donations
to help out people in the Basin struggling during the hay
Relief Team has sent volunteers to help as well, Sanchez
make light work,” she said. “Everybody is just jumping on
outpouring of support from around the state, Timber Unity
can only do so much.
“We are kind of
just flying by the seat of our pants trying to help where we
can,” Sanchez said.
was born in Klamath Falls but currently lives in Sweet Home,
said last year, farmers in the Basin ran hay up north to
help feed animals displaced by wildfires.
from Basin farmers in a time of need gave her the idea that
one day Timber Unity should return the favor.
And that is
precisely what happened.
hay farmers) gave out of their excess to the wildfire
victims and that probably hurt them this year,” she said.
“And now they are suffering, and now we had to return the
farmers in the Klamath Basin didn’t help out last year
expecting to to be repaid, but this year has been
devastating to them.
“If we can
secure more resources and more volunteers, we will try to
make another run, but for now we feel we’ve reached our
capacity, unless we can get more people together to do it
one more time,” Sanchez added.
Fred Simon, a
farmer in Malin, owns about 30 head of cattle near the
California state line.
A volunteer for
Timber Unity, Simon said he has been receiving hay shipments
at his property to be distributed to people in the Basin.
Timber Unity so far has brought a couple shipments totaling
about 500 tons of hay, he said.
helped facilitate local deliveries, providing ranchers who
were burned out of their allotments with about 500 pounds of
hay per cow, Simon said. That’s enough for about a month’s
worth of feeding, he said. But while every bit helps, Simon
said the Basin is going to need a lot more.
been people feeding cattle (hay) since July,” Simon said.
“Usually they don’t feed until October, November. It’s a
help, but it is not enough to make them whole.”
Simon said both
a lack of irrigation water dried out many pastures, creating
a local shortage, which was compounded by the Bootleg Fire
burning people out in the mountains.
costs and lack of water cause price, demand increase
started putting up hay in 1989 when he was 18 years old.
produces and brokers hay on about 1,000 acres of land in
Klamath County. He also raises his own cattle.
Gorden had to raise his prices from the year prior — and he
is still making less net profit than 2020. Prices going up
and supply going down has people nervous, he said.
needs to stay calm,” said Gorden. “At the end of the day it
will all work out.”
Gorden said the
Basin has seen droughts like the current one, and he
believes it is just a matter of time before things get
doomsday,” Gorden said. “It’s going to get wet again, it’s
going to rain again.”
Gorden said he
hates to see the price of hay going up so much, but his
costs are rising exponentially as well.
has gone up 35% in one year,” Gorden said. “Fertilizer is
made from petroleum, and fuel prices are going up… the input
costs are ridiculous.”
back when he was getting his start in the early 1990s, a new
hay baler would run under $30,000. Today, that price tag is
Hay prices are
increasing to keep up with the rise in equipment prices and
production costs, Gorden said.
in the Basin has also increased in price, which in turn,
bumps up hay prices even more.
Gorden said the
price of irrigated land is about three and a half times more
expensive than it was in the early ‘90s, further increasing
the overhead costs of production.
“The water has
brought the problem to the surface, which has created a
shortage in a market, allowing the prices to go up,” Gorden
said. “But truly, prices should have been going up to keep
up with the prices of production. (Local ranchers) are
seeing it and feeling it because it is all happening at
once, because the drought is causing it to happen all at
Tim Howard, a
local farmer who sells feeder hay, said big bales of grain
hay currently run between $175 to $210 per ton. Feeder
alfalfa will run between $205 and $240 per ton, Howard said.
Howard puts up
his own hay and feeds it to his animals. He said its
definitely harder to come by, if you have to order in.
irrigation water is what caused it,” Howard said.
he’d likely work with Timber Unity to donate some hay, but
he needs enough to share.
“I have to make
sure I have enough for me and enough for my customers, and
then I’d probably get involved,” he said.
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