MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After a difficult summer, Minnesota farmers are confronting a new challenge as colder weather moves in.

The price of hay has more than tripled in the past six months, fueled by a shortage caused by a drought-plagued autumn and wet spring that diminished yield.

The historic shortage has some agricultural and animal experts concerned that horses could be in for a long winter.

“Farmers and ranchers are having a very difficult time finding feed and when they do they have absolutely sticker shock,” said Krisona Martinson, an equine extension specialist at the University of Minnesota. “I think a number of these farmers are either unprepared to deal with this situation, or they aren’t yet fully aware of how serious it is.”

As hay prices have soared, so too has neglect and abuse. The Minnesota Humane Society has recorded approximately 1,600 cases in the past year, representing a 400 percent increase.

“There are obviously other factors that contribute to abuse, but I think that there is a very close relationship (between hay prices and humane cases),” Martinson said.

The shortage has prompted the Minnesota Hay Bank to pitch in. With a loan, the Golden Valley-based nonprofit “food shelf for horses” has purchased 20 tons of hay.

The large load of feed will be stored at Canterbury Park in Shakopee and distributed to struggling farmers later in the winter.

“The fate of many horses this winter is not one of chance, but one of choice,” said Stacy Bettison, a Hay Bank co-founder. “Outside all winter, behind fences in the snow, cold and wind, horses are 100 percent dependent on humans to care for them. As the temperature drops, horses need even more help.”

The Hay Bank accepts tax-deductible donations. You can contribute by clicking here or by calling 612-807-6337.


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