Friday, August 24, 2012

Horse rescue groups overwhelmed as drought-plagued owners give up without access to hay

Horse rescue groups have struggled to care for a growing number of animals abandoned since the recession began in 2008, but leaders say their work has become even more difficult and expensive as drought and wildfires burned up pastures and sent hay prices skyrocketing. Many people who held on to their horses in the downturn are now letting them go because they can't find or afford feed that has more than doubled in price, reports Grant Schulte of the Associated Press. (AP photo by Nati Harnik)

This is what drought looks like to rescue organizations: Jami Salter at the Double R Horse Rescue Ranch in Riverdale, Neb., said she's still getting three or four calls a week from people asking her to take their horses, and at one point, people were abandoning one or two animals a week. "People would just drop horses off without asking me," Salter said. "Every morning, I went out to water them, and I'd have more horses than the day before."

Most farmers and ranchers have had trouble growing hay this year because of the drought that stretches from Ohio west to California, reports Schulte. Salter said a company that donates to her rescue got 46 bales last year from a 22-acre plot but this year expects only six or seven.  "There's no place to go with a horse you can't feed," said Iowa Horse Council President Bill Paynter, of New Virginia, Iowa. And, say advocates, it's only going to get worse.

(See also a Financial Times story on hay a as key U.S. commodity here. The viewing is free but readers must register to be allowed onto the site.)

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