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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 10/17/12
Above, horse owners will have to endure higher hay prices to feed their animals this winter due to a shortage in hay.
(Observer photo by Chris Gray)
Hay shortage affecting
horse owners, food prices
by CHRIS GRAYPhil Hoxsey of Hox Acres in Washington Township said the horse boarding farm grows enough hay from its 150 acres to sell extra bales.
Observer Staff Writer
This year, however, the farm is looking to cut back on operations due to a shortage of about 3,000 bales.
"We ain't selling any this year because we need to keep it for our own," he said. "We're probably going to buy some more hay around March."
Like other crops this season, hay is experiencing a reduction due to this year's dry weather and farmers plowing their hay to grow more profitable crops.
The shortage is not only affecting horse owners and agricultural businesses, but is expected to drive up the cost of food for consumers.
Phil Kaatz, field crops specialist with the Michigan State University Extension, said the Macomb and Lapeer areas are seeing a 40 percent reduction in hay.
"This is the first year we've had significant reduction in this area in quite a few years, so we'll have to wait and see what happens over time," he said.
Due to the shortage, the price of hay has doubled in price. He said this will cause animal owners such as beef or dairy producers to cut down on the number of animals they have or to find alternate means of enduring the winter.
He said the shortage will hit horse owners as well since hay is the animal's primary source of food in the winter.
"If they're not producing their own, it'll be difficult in the long run," he said.
Even those who produce are feeling the effects, such as at the Hox Acres. Hoxsey said the farm will have to consider boarding fewer horses this year, as the farm feeds each horse twice a day.
"We're cutting down on our operations," he said. "Hay prices have gone up at least 33 percent higher, and sometimes 50 percent higher."
Frank Prainito of Prainito Stables in Ray Township said the loss of hay is combining with the tough economy to make matters worse for horse owners.
"I've got people with horses in my barn and a lot of 'em have lost work," he said. "People love their horses like people love their dogs, so it's a rough go."
So far, it seems Prainito's sentiment holds true, as few complaints have come through the Macomb County Animal Shelter regarding neglected horses.
Stephen Lichota is the associate director of the Macomb County Environmental Health Services, which oversees the county shelter. He said the shelter hasn't experienced any increases in calls related to horses since the local area had enough rainfall for the animals to graze in pastures.
"In the fall and winter when they have to start feeding horses it may be a different scenario," he said. "If we do receive a complaint we will go and check it."
Other shelters in Michigan, such as the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Ann Arbor, are seeing more complaints due to horses being malnourished from the hay shortage.
Rising food prices
Kaatz said the drought that swept through the nation this year didn't play as significant of a role in Michigan as it did in the rest of the country, but said food prices could see a rise due to the overall shortage of hay, corn and soybeans that beef and dairy producers need to feed their livestock.
"Agriculture is a very integrated business, it's an industry as much as anything, so all those things in combination will cause the price of food to go up," he said.
Michigan's supply of corn, however, may not be as impacted as the rest of the nation. Kaatz said in three weeks growers will know the status of their supply, but are expecting a better than average crop this year.
Russ Montney, agronomy manager at Washington Elevator, said despite a good yield he believes the prices will likely remain higher than average prices.
"Farmers plowed hay fields and planted corn and soybeans because those commodity prices are high," he said. "Prices are controlled by the Chicago Board of Trade, so they'll set the price for corn and soybeans."