Hay Shortage Hits Texas

Hay Shortage Hits Texas

Photo: Photos.com

As Texas residents battle extreme drought conditions, horse owners are struggling to get their hands on enough hay to feed their animals.

"The drought is quite widespread and covers nearly the entire state," said Dennis H. Sigler, PhD, a professor in the department of animal science at Texas A&M University (TAMU) and the TAMU Extension Horse Specialist. "Although some areas are much worse than others, all but just a couple of counties out of 254 are under a severe drought, with little relief in sight."

Added Travis Miller, professor and associated head of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at TAMU and Extension Program Leader, "We are experiencing the most severe one-year drought in Texas history. June 2011 was the warmest June and the fifth warmest month is our history of recorded weather. July 2011 set the record for the warmest month in recorded Texas history. While we made some good hay in 2010, our hay barns were empty from a very severe drought in 2009. We have been feeding livestock since October, and 2010 hays supplies are gone."

For area horse owners, this means having to make tough decisions, dig deep into resources to find hay to purchase and deep in their pockets to pay for the forage they've found.

"(Horse owners) are cutting back on horse numbers, shipping in hay from out of state, feeding bagged alfalfa cubes, and/or feeding lower quality forages than they have in the past," Sigler reported. "In the last couple of weeks I have heard of Bermuda grass hay square bales quoted at $7.50 to $9.00 from hay producers and up to $10 to $11 from feed stores, when (and if) available. Alfalfa hay (all shipped in from out of state) is priced at $10 to $14 a bale. Last year at this time grass hay was in the $5.00 to $6.50 range."

Larry A. Redmon Ph.D., State Extension Forage Specialist, added that alfalfa pellets have become a popular option for owners looking for a forage source.

Miller explained that while options are dwindling, Texas horse owners have some outlets available for assistance in finding forage: "The Texas Department of Agriculture keeps a Hay Hotline open, which is an exchange for buyers, sellers, and donors of hay. We also keep dozens of publications on drought management (which are available online)."

Finally, he suggested horse owners consult their county extension agents: "These agents have quite a lot of resources to help horse owners."

"Our only hope at this point is for tropical weather to bring large amounts of rain," Miller concluded. "We cannot predict when this drought will break."

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in three-day eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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