Alberta Drought

A severe drought in northern Alberta is taking its toll on the horse population of that Canadian province. Canadian newspaper reports have indicated that many Alberta horses have been sent to slaughter (because the drought has made feeding horses very difficult), and horse prices have dropped to historic lows. One source close to the slaughter market, however, says media reports that hundreds of horses are without feed and awaiting slaughter are "overblown."

Bennie Kropius, plant representative and one of the chief buyers of slaughter horses for Bouvray Exports Calgary LTD, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, says that it is true that there is a glut of slaughter horses on the market and that prices paid for them have fallen drastically. However, he adds, the Alberta drought is only one part of the scenario.

He said that reports in newspapers, such as the Calgary Herald, have overstated drought-related equine problems. "People aren't turning their horses out onto the roadways," he said.

Paul Mitchell, who operates the Mitchell Centre for Equine Rescue and Education in Vulcan, Alberta, was quoted in an August Calgary Herald article as saying that he received 200 calls in a short span of time from people seeking to get rid of their horses because they have no feed. The article estimated that there are 21,000 horses currently awaiting slaughter in Alberta. Bouvray Exports normally slaughters about 1,300 horses per week at the Fort Macleod plant, but has room for some 15,000 at feedlots in Alberta and Shelby, Mont.

"There is an abundance of horses on the market and not just in the drought areas," said Kropius. As a result, the per pound price for a slaughter horse in prime condition has dropped to 40 cents, with horses in poor condition selling for much less. Normally, a well-conditioned horse would bring between 60 and 70 cents per pound.

Serving to exacerbate the problem, according to Kropius, is a recent heavy influx of horses from Argentina into the European marketplace, thereby cutting into the demand for Canadian and U.S. horse meat.

The drought in part of Alberta is severe, Kropius says, but probably is no worse than in parts of the American West, such as Wyoming, which is heading into its fourth straight year of drought.

Some of the Alberta drought areas have recently received rainfall, he says, but it has come too late to help forage growth this year.

About the Author

Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow is a free-lance writer based near Riverton, Wyo. He specializes in articles on equine research, and operates a ranch where he raises horses and livestock. He has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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