Drought Continues to Plague South Central United States

As a severe drought continues to plague parts of the south central United States, horse owners, livestock producers, and farmers are all looking for help in getting through the dry spell.

The majority of the state of Texas, about half of the state of Oklahoma, and a large portion of New Mexico are currently facing a class D4 (classified as "exceptional") drought, and many other parts of those states are dealing with a D3 ("extreme") drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Although some parts of Texas received some rain on Aug. 11, the state has not seen enough rain to combat the conditions that have caused billions of dollars in livestock and agriculture losses since the drought began earlier this year. A report from MSNBC estimates livestock losses valued at $2.1 billion and crop losses of $3.1 billion in Texas as a result of the droughts, both of which are record setting-amounts.

As previously reported, the severe drought conditions have caused a hay shortage for horse and livestock owners in affected states. The price of hay has risen exponentially as a result, and horse owners are having to make some difficult choices.

Dennis H. Sigler, PhD, a professor in the department of animal science at Texas A&M University (TAMU) and the TAMU Extension Horse Specialist, explained, "(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."

The state of Texas has several resources for horse owners as they attempt to manage their animals and facilities in these severe drought conditions including:

Additionally, agents from the Oklahoma State University Extension are valuable resource for owners in that state searching for answers and options during the drought.

Little relief is in sight for affected states, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, however, which stated, "The majority of the exceptional drought areas fall in between the wet and dry regions to the east and west, so some improvement may come in the form of localized systems, but no drought-busters are in sight at this time."

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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 eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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