And That Ain't (Cheap) Hay; Drought Saddles Horse Owners

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THE MORNING JOURNAL, OHIO — AUGUST 28, 2012 — The summer drought has stung area horse owners with a sharp price rise for hay to feed their steed. Some fear a winter shortage could force them to sell their horses for slaughter.

The price of hay has doubled from $3 a bale to $7.50 a bale this summer in northern Ohio and probably will continue to rise, said two horse rescue operations in Lorain County.

Brenda Lewis, president of Another Chance Equine Rescue Inc. (ACE Rescue) in Grafton said she has 13 horses and has stopped taking in more due to the hay shortage. View the video.

“It breaks my heart that our rescue can’t feed any more horses, but we’ve got to take care of the ones we’ve got,” Lewis said.

Heidi Sangrev, president of Angels Haven Horse Rescue in Grafton, said a horse can eat about 15 bales of hay each month. The hay shortage will likely drive up the costs of oats and other grains because there will be more demand from horse owners seeking other foods, Sangrev said.

Even without a drought, the poor economy has made it tougher for many people to keep their horses, Sangrev added. Her group has set up www.angelshavenhorserescue.org for owners to seek new homes for healthy horses, she said.

Farmers generally will cut hay three times a summer. As the growing season wears on, the hay yield usually decreases, but quality of the grass goes up with each cutting, Lewis said.

Area farmers generally had a good first cut, Lewis said, but the hot summer stifled hay growth so second cuts are minimal, and some fields may not grow enough for a third.

Demand for hay is steady, Lewis said, but supply has been cut short. Meanwhile, farmers have the same operating costs cutting and baling hay whether the ground yields 50 bales or 200, she said.

“So the price skyrockets on hay and this is all because of the drought,” Lewis said. “A lot of people are upset about it, but it’s not (the farmers’) fault. It’s not their fault it didn’t rain.”

More information about horse rescue is available at: www.anotherchancehorse-rescueohio.com.