Horse owners look for answers amid hay shortage - KMSP-TV

Horse owners look for answers amid hay shortage

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Whether you talk to horse owners or mere enthusiasts, concerns around the hay shortage don't just stem from a delayed spring or drought. The shortage is very much a political issue.

Equine Extension specialist Krishona Martinson spent a good portion of her Saturday teaching horse owners how to make the most of their bales and cubes of hay.

"Right now hay is $240 a ton. An average 1000-pound horse is going to eat about 20-25 pounds of hay per day," Martinson said.

"Some years, this presentation would not nearly have been as popular. I think the real issue is the weather," Martinson said. "So you have a drought, there's less hay; you have a stronger demand, you have less hay. You're going to see the increase in prices."

Stacy Bettison of the Minnesota Hay Bank, a non-profit that helps horse owners facing difficult times, says she sees more owners struggling.

"Applicants that have run out of hay and need assistance paying for hay but also need help finding hay," Bettison said.

Dr. Harlan Anderson of Idle Acres believes there's a larger issue outside of the stables' policy. He says corn and soy producers get benefits that alfalfa growers simply do not. This has caused the usual alfalfa growers bail on the hay – alfalfa being a key ingredient to hay quality.

"No farm bill is alright," Anderson said. "Corn farmers are making enough money today, they don't need subsidies. They don't need the benefits they get from crop insurance, they don't need the low-interest loans, they're doing well."

"So farmers are doing math, so farmers are saying it's more profitable for me to plant corn and soy beans, I'm planting less hay, so less hay acres with the drought it's a double-whammy to the hay economy," Martinson said.

The Minnesota Hay Bank agrees.

"We do expect hay to continue to be scarce, we do expect hay to continue to be very, very expensive," Bettison said.

Of the approximately 158 thousand horses in Minnesota, up to two percent could suffer because of the shortage. For the horse owner's sake, a little rain would help level off commodity prices. Meanwhile, Martinson suggests horse owners to manage their hay wisely. Use a feeder, evaluate if you can feed the horses you have, how much hay you can afford, and make sure you're shopping around for the best supplier.

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