Here's why all those hay donations in your Facebook feed are such a big deal


By Roseann Moring, Omaha World-Herald (NE)

Apr 13, 2019


Soon after water came flooding out of Nebraska’s rivers, hay started to come flooding in.


And the deluge hasn’t stopped yet, with donations from around the country arriving daily to feed Nebraska’s cattle.


It’s a situation that makes for a lot of feel-good social media posts. “Goosebumps a mile high,” one woman posted on photos of hay bales being delivered from more than two dozen states.


But it’s also serious business that could make the difference in farmers being able to keep their businesses going.


Consider this: A cow can eat 24 pounds or more of hay each day. One 1,300-pound bale of hay can feed about 40 to 50 cattle for a day.


“That was mind-blowing to me,” said Hannah Sucha, a teacher who along with her parents is helping organize donation efforts in Verdigre, a town of 550 south of Niobrara.


Clint Pischel lost more than 50 calves at his ranch just north of the Niobrara River after the Spencer Dam broke.


He’s received donations through the efforts of Sucha’s family, and he said if he had to buy the hay it would likely cost thousands of dollars a month. He said the hay donations allow him to focus on rebuilding and caring for his cattle’s health.


“Speaking for everybody that has been affected that has received hay, myself included,” Pischel said, “it’s a big help and I think we’d all say a big thank you and we appreciate it more than they know.”


Cows outnumber people in Nebraska, and while not all those cows live in flooded areas, many of them do.


Wet hay will rot quickly. And, in some cases, it washed away.


Some ranchers initially were cut off by flooded roads. In the two weeks after the floods, the Nebraska National Guard dropped 37.5 tons of hay by air and delivered 17.5 tons by ground.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized free emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres, with proper paperwork, for Nebraska producers who lost pasture or fences due to flooding through April 30. The same was authorized for Iowa this week through May 14.


Almost immediately after the floods, people from around the country — from as far away as Vermont, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as well as closer neighbors — began sending truckloads of hay, and the donations continued to arrive last week...


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