A last-ditch effort

Buyers get much-needed commodity at hay auction

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— It was a seller's market, but for many who came to Saturday's hay auction, it was "buy now or not at all."

The auction started at 9:30 a.m., and within an hour, auctioneers Les Olhauser and Randy Lewis sold off every bale.

Trucks backed up to loaded flat beds and, slowly, ton after ton of hay left the Knoll Parking Lot of the Steamboat Ski Area.

One woman watched the trucks disappearing and her superstition showed, "A load of hay, a load of hay, make a wish and turn away," she said.

Hay buyers and producers alike stood and watched the harvest disappear. No one said it aloud, but they all had the same wish never again a year like this one.

After a summer of drought, Yampa Valley hay producers harvested about a third of what they did last year.

The price reflects the loss. In a good year, hay sells for around $80 a ton. This year, hay was selling for closer to $200 a ton.

Not only is it expensive, it is scarce, and many in the valley are having a hard time finding enough to last their livestock through the winter.

Thirty bidders showed up to the inaugural hay auction.

The auction was so successful, said Jean Morrow, director of the Community Agriculture Alliance, that plans are already in the works for next year.

"We've made a few minor changes to the way we did things this time around," the Community Agriculture Alliance's Tammy Delaney said.

"First, we realized there is a need for names and addresses of hay producers." "If you grew up in the valley, you know who sells hay and where to go," Morrow said. "If you are new, you may only have access to what you see in the newspaper classifieds."

Many auction attendees were new to the valley, but a few buyers were longtime residents whose own hay crops didn't produce because of the weather.

Rebecca Ludlow owns land on Twentymile Road and bought 25 tons of hay at the auction.

Ludlow usually has enough hay to feed her livestock, with enough left over to sell.

As she wrote the check, she wouldn't say how much she was about to pay.

"A lot," she said.

Anyone still in need of hay can call Jean Morrow at 879-4370.

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