Southeastern Drought Affecting Feed Prices, Horse Sales

Some horse owners are looking toward a dire winter as hay prices soar, and rescue workers worry about animal neglect and abandonment in the coming months.

Both groups blame the drought, which wiped out hay crops across the South and affected pasture land that horses would normally graze through November.

"I'm just trying to hold out and maybe make it through this year," said Jerry Godwin, who has 40 horses on his Marshville, N.C., farm. "Maybe next year will be better."

Hay costs have risen from a few dollars for a square bale to more than $7.50, while the price for a larger round bale that sold for $20 to $30 has doubled, farmers say. Transportation costs also have gone up.

Cattle farmers also are facing a difficult winter because of hay shortages, although they can sell their livestock to slaughter houses, a practice banned in the United States for horses.

Horse owners also have a different problem in feeding their animals. Cattle can eat more types of feed, but horses have finicky stomachs.

Horses can colic, and some can die if they're given the wrong feed or their feed is switched, said Darlene Kindle, regional director for the Southern Piedmont chapter of the U.S. Equine Rescue League.

Kindle, who is taking care of 10 horses, worries that high hay costs might cause some people to turn away foster horses.

More owners also are looking to give their horses to rescue agencies, said Sue Gray, executive director of the North Carolina Horse Council. The nonprofit agency represents the equine industry statewide.

"What we fear the most," Gray said, "is that people will begin to abandon or neglect the horses, and we're going to see an abuse situation ever-increasing as we move into January."


Information from: The Charlotte Observer, www.charlotte.com.  

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