Michigan Equine Survey Reports 20% Population Increase

Michigan's equine population has climbed nearly 20% since 1996, according to the preliminary results of a new study conducted by investigators from Michigan State University (MSU), the Michigan Horse Council, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The Michigan Equine Survey--the first comprehensive study of the state's horses, donkeys, and mules to be completed in more than a decade--was released Dec. 13 during the Michigan Equine Conference at the MSU Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.

Intended to estimate the equine population by breed and use, it was also designed to explore how and where horses are kept, land use issues such as zoning and manure management, and the number of individuals employed by the equine industry.

The survey showed that the state's equine population increased from 133,000 animals to 155,000. The greatest numbers of equids are in Oakland, Washtenaw, and Livingston counties, respectively.

There are 440,000 acres devoted to equine operations across the state. Most of these are zoned for agricultural use (345,000), but some are also in residential (60,000) and other zoning categories (35,000). The value of assets, including barns, equipment, and supplies, is close to $8 billion.

"It's the most comprehensive study of this kind that's been completed," said Mary Rossano, Michigan Horse Council industry liaison and survey co-investigator. "We included questions about how horses are used, how manure is managed, and how horses are used on public land. Now we have three studies in a row, all sampled by the same protocol, from which we can make valid comparisons."

The survey results will also be used by local planning and zoning officials, state government representatives in departments such as Agriculture and Natural Resources, and veterinarians and other equine health monitors.

"Whether you have one horse in the backyard or horses are your livelihood, the numbers from the survey and the industry as a whole can affect you in everything from horse health issues to taxation issues," said Valerie Vail-Shirey of the Michigan Equine Partnership. "The survey numbers, as they develop over time, show the size of the equine industry and the impact it has on Michigan."

A survey report will be made available by MSU Extension once the data have been further analyzed. Preliminary results are available online from the Michigan Department of Agriculture.  

The Michigan Equine Survey was conducted with support from the MSU Animal Agriculture Initiative, the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the Michigan Equine Partnership, MSU Extension, the Michigan Horse Council, the Brighton Trail Riders Association, the Pontiac Lake Horseman's Association, the Proud Lake Trail Riders' Association, the Michigan Draft Horse Breeders Association, the Michigan Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, the Augusta Township Mounted Patrol, and the Highland Equestrian Coalition.

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