Last December, Equine Outreach of Bend was the recipient of a $10,000 hay grant from the ASPCA. Joan Steelhammer, founder and executive director of Bend-based Equine Outreach said Tuesday the horses of her shelter have literally eaten those funds up, and the shelter is once again strapped to find more feed going into the second quarter of 2013.
The ASPCA provided the $10,000 grant as part of its “Hay Bale-Out” initiative, which provided emergency relief for “horses impacted by the high cost and low supply of hay in these drought-stricken states.”
The hay challenges Equine Outreach is currently experiencing are being driven by a multitude of factors affecting hay growers here in Oregon. Greg Mohnen, vice president of the Oregon Hay and Forage Association, says that while the prices for hay have risen, margins are shrinking for hay growers, as the costs of inputs needed to grow hay have increased faster than actual hay prices.
Inputs like water, for which Mohen’s ranch pays $10 per acre-foot, fuel, and fertilizer are becoming more and more expensive for growers. Mohen also says labor inputs are significant: “Being a hay grower is a 7-day-a-week job. It’s very labor intensive.”
While Mohen’s 5-way blend grass hay, with a protein value of 14% has been selling for $275/ton here in Oregon, some hay producers are looking farther afield for markets.
Hay prices in Oregon compare very favorably to those experienced by hay consumers in other regions, where water resources are in greater scarcity and prices per ton are significantly more expensive.
According to Cassie Piersen of Piersen Agricultural Enterprises in Silver Lake, Oregon-grown hay is sold in places as far afield as the United Arab Emirates, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia, where buyers view “buying hay as if they’re buying water,” according to Pierson.
Pierson and her husband, Scott Pierson (also President of the Oregon Hay and Forage Association) , have shipped to Middle East markets in the past. However, they currently sell hay in markets closer to home, like Washington and California, where hay prices are significantly higher.
All these factors make acquiring sufficient hay an ongoing challenge for Equine Outreach. A privately funded charity, Equine Outreach’s mission is to “facilitate the rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, and permanent placement of abused and neglected horses in Deschutes County and Central Oregon.”
For more information about Equine Outreach, please visit their website at www.EquineOutreach.com, or call the organization at (541) 419-4842.