MAPLE CITY, Mich. — The long summer drought and the oppressive heat wave is making it difficult for horse owners to find enough feed for their animals.
Hay is in short supply, and where it is available prices have skyrocketed.
Last year, a square bale of hay delivered to the barn was running roughly $3 to $3.50 a bale in northern Michigan. Prices now range from $8 to $9 a bale. A typical trail or quarter horse munches a quarter- to half-bale a day, so many are concerned about their horses starving when the bitter winter weather gallops in.
It’s the same in other Midwestern communities. In Iowa, owners worked overtime during the summer months to ensure their horses had water, now they fear there might not be enough food to keep them fed this winter.
Ottumwa, Iowa, resident Connie Wilson won’t let her horses go — or go hungry — but she’s felt the pinch on her pocketbook.
“Last year, I think it was $3.75 for a square bale,” Wilson said. A few days ago, her “hay people” could get her a square bale for $6 — and she’s one of the lucky ones.
A news outlet in Ohio reports the bales there that sold for $4 last year now sell as high as $17.
"It's going to be a very tough winter," said Tanja Molby, a Suttons Bay, Mich., veterinarian who heads the Michigan Equine Association. "A lot of clients are calling in a panic already."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a forecast released August 10, predicted the nation's alfalfa hay crop in 2012 will drop 16 percent from the year prior.
That would be "the lowest production level since 1953," the USDA reported.
Don Coe, managing partner of Black Star Farms in Leelanau County, Mich., said the hay shortage has all segments of the ag industry worried. "People raising hay in this area are in desperate shape when it comes to being able to feed their livestock," Coe said.
Details for this story were provided by The Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Mich., and The Ottumwa (Iowa) Courier.