With steadily rising grain-based feed prices the future is hard to predict, but the one thing that is certain is costs are stretching budgets, especially for those who keep companion animals.
Feed prices are driven by market values for agricultural products such as corn and grains. In the last 12 months, those commodity values have nearly doubled, according to the USDA.
As of Feb. 7, corn prices were $6.98 a bushel, up from $3.86 the same time last year, according to Peggy Burns with the USDA.
On a day-to-day basis, those prices fluctuate, sometimes as much as 75 cents, she said.
And that increase translates to a higher price tag on the feed bag at the store.
“It is unbelievable how much it’s gone up,” Burns said.
One Stop Feed employee Austin Hale said the number of people with pet animals such as horses and small livestock is dropping and those hanging on to their animals often look at different ways to feed to keep costs down.
It’s not just one type of feed, he said, it’s all of it.
“It’s higher than I ever remember seeing it… it is all either at record highs or close to it,” he said.
For most feeds the difference is anywhere from $1 to $2 per bag, but it adds up when it has to be purchased in quantity for large animals, he said.
And as a result, Hale said, “you don’t see as many with just companion only type of pets; things are tighter and they’re stretching money to make ends meet.”
As a result, Hale said the horse market has suffered, but cattle, which are fetching a price right now, seem to be weathering just fine.
However Hale said the hay market which is primarily based on locally grown alfalfa, grass and wheat, has stayed consistent, offsetting the sting some for animal owners.
The people most affected by the prices right now are people who already have tight budgets, said Patrick Kircher, Roosevelt County extension agent.
And it does force them to approach animal care differently.
In the past, youth and families who might have raised extra animals for county fair competitions are only raising the ones they plan to enter in 4-H competition.
“For the most part folks really try to take care of the livestock but I think people are going to be a lot more conscious of alternatives,” he said.
Which may mean changing brands or types of food or blending products to save where they can.
“People don’t take on the extra mouths to feed like they once did,” he said. “I could sure see folks opting out and not participating (in the fair) this year just because of the cost.”
As far as when things will turn around, or if they will, Hale said it’s hard to tell, but “Probably not very quick.”
“At some point the feed price will go down, but it won’t help because your transportation costs and production keep going up.”