No bailout for Placer livestock owners in hay, feed price rise

Drought in Midwest linked to high prices in California
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The high cost of feed is creating sticker shock for some Placer County horse owners. Now there are fears that higher prices for hay and corn will result in neglect of horses and other livestock – or even abandonment – as people choose between feeding their animals or putting dinner on their own table. “It is a problem,” said Marilyn Jasper, Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills president. “In one of our neglect cases, the person said it was happening because of financial hardships. But then that person now has another horse.” Balancing the love of a horse that has sometimes become an important family member and managing to provide for its needs is getting harder as hay and corn prices take a jump. Jasper said she has heard no verified reports of people abandoning horses in the area because they can’t manage costs but she has fielded a number of reports on how high prices – combined with continuing financial hardships for some – are creating sizeable cash-flow headaches. “My understanding is it’s really hurting people,” Jasper said. Feed stores are on the front line of complaints about high costs for hay and corn that provides sustenance for livestock. In reality, the higher prices have come because farmers and ranchers have had trouble growing hay and corn this year because of a drought that has stretched from Ohio west to California, The Associated Press reported. In the Midwest, horse rescue groups are handling an influx of animals and facing fewer people willing to adopt. Hay has more than doubled in price in some areas. At the Hay Barn, north of Auburn off Highway 49, manager Jennifer D’Andrade said that the livestock industry is hunkering down for a near future of prices are expected to go even higher. “Everyone is pretty hard-pressed for money and some people understand because the drought has been all over the news,” D’Andrade said. “And some people have gotten frustrated and downsized to less animals.” A 105-pound bale of alfalfa that was selling for around $7 or $8 two years ago is now costing $16.99. Last winter, when demand was even greater, a bale was selling for $20 to $22, she said. “Some people are pretty upset and a lot have switched to cheaper feeds,” D’Andrade said. Auburn’s Echo Valley Ranch owner Greg Kimler said that hay prices have been impacted by the higher cost of corn. “It’s been the perfect storm with prices in the Midwest,” Kimler said. “Seventy-five percent of the corn is used by dairies and the horse industry is a small portion.” With corn in short supply and prices rising, dairies have turned to hay. “And we didn’t have a good season for growing orchard grass so it has been a case of simple supply and demand,” Kimler said. Kimler, a horse owner and Tevis Cup finisher, said he’s not hearing reports of local horse owners turning theirs loose or dumping them on the street. “I’m not seeing people in a panic,” Kimler said. “But it affects us all. Every week, prices are going up for a bag of feed.”