Horses lose their homes as hay prices rise

This summer’s drought has caused yet another crisis: Horse owners are giving up their horses because of the extreme increase in hay prices.

Kelsie Vaile, sophomore in ACES, has a family hay farm in Amboy, Ill. She said the average horse consumes half a bale of hay a day, which used to cost between $2.50 and $3 per bale. Now, she said horse owners are paying between $7 and $10 per bale.

Vaile said her family used to get about 300 bales out of their 9-acre field every time they cut it. But after the drought, they only got 87 bales in their cutting this week.

“People can’t spend all that money on hay when they have other animals to feed,” Vaile said. “We usually have a lot of hay to sell to people and make money to feed our horses (and) other things, but this year, because the hay has been so terrible, we’ve had to get rid of a couple of our horses.”

Sarah Everson, freshman in LAS, had to give up one of her two horses because her family couldn’t afford hay.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “The timing was tough on my parents’ jobs, but it was getting to the point where both horses were eating through the hay so fast, we couldn’t keep up with them.”

Everson said there would be times when her horses wouldn’t have hay for a couple of months because her family couldn’t afford it. She said her family still owes money to a nearby hay farmer.

Katrina Olson, visiting lecturer at the University, is a horse owner and boards horses as well. Olson’s family buys hay from a hay farmer in northern Champaign, who said prices will start to come down because of the rain from Hurricane Isaac.

Olson said other economic considerations may drive farmers away from keeping horses.

“More than the cost of hay, I think it’s all the maintenance that goes into the care of a horse,” Olson said. “Hay is certainly a big factor. Especially as we get into winter, and the prices go up again.”

The Society for Hooved Animals’ Rescue and Emergencyis a nonprofit humane society in the Champaign area. Linda Hewerdine, founder and director of the rescue agency, said they receive two or three calls a week from people wanting to give up their horses because they are too expensive to feed. But because the society has 64 horses from Illinois Department of Agriculture investigations, the organization isn’t taking donated horses at this time.

“I believe most of it is because of the economy. The horses we have taken in this summer have been starved all summer,” Hewerdine said. “We’re too full to take the other animals from people. They’re going to have to solve their own problem.”

Claire can be reached at