Big Country animal caretaker feels economic impact of rising price of animal feed, gas

MERKEL, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – How much does it cost to feed a bison, kangaroo, otter and zebra? With rising gas prices increasing the cost of animal feed prices, it’s hard to say.

Jim Nolan, owner of Rafter J Exceptional Rodeos in Merkel, has been raising domestic and exotic animals for 23 years and counting.

Nolan’s operation gives kids with disabilities the opportunity to get up close and learn about some of their favorite animals, such as an otter or kangaroo.

Gallery: Animals of Rafter J Exceptional Rodeos in Merkel

But due to the current economic climate, it has become exceptionally difficult for Nolan to feed all 60 of his animals due to rising feed costs. He said over the past year, he has seen his monthly feed bill nearly double.

Russian-Ukrainian war has been affecting US gas priceswhich raises the cost of transportation animal feed. In turn, suppliers and distributors have upped the cost of feed per unit.

“With hay prices going up and finding hay, we’re probably spending anywhere from $2,000 a month,” Nolan said.

This rancher said a 30-pound bag of specialty kangaroo food he buys for Buckaroo costs roughly $40, and needs about 5-6 round hay bales to feed all of his horses, brahman bulls, bison and zebra- which runs about $85 per bale.

Rising gas prices have effected how the feed gets to a local feed store, as well as if Nolan needs to have specialty feed shipped in from other places. It all tacks on to the base price of the feed.

Waylan Jackson, President of Jackson Bros. Feed and Seed, said since last fall, feed prices across the board have risen at a steady pace.

“In the last couple months, a lot of feed has gone up about $40 a ton on the average,” Jackson said. “If you go back to last fall, a lot of feeds [have] gone up $60 to $80 a ton.”

For most feeds, that is roughly a 2-4 dollar increase in price, however, Jackson said he has seen feeds crawl up to 6-10 dollars more.

Jackson said they order specialty feeds for Nolan, as well as the Abilene Zoo. He said specialty feed prices have also risen 20-25%.

Jim Nolan said even with rising costs, it’s a price he’s willing to pay because of the impact it has on each kid.

“It brings a lot of smiles to a lot of kids for just a short period of time, but that’s what makes it well worth it,” Nolan explained.

The difficulty to pay for feed started during the February freeze in 2021, and now, he is asking for community support to help keep his operation running.

Nolan has dedicated his nonprofit to his son, Spencer, who passed away last year. It was Spencer’s wish to help connect children with the animals.

The Nolan family has set up a GoFundMe page for anyone who would like to donate. You can find the link to page, as well as more information on Rafter J Exceptional Rodeos, here.


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