News last update:6 Aug 2012

Horses in the US abandoned as feed prices rise

Horses are being increasingly abandoned in the US as owners cannot afford to feed them anymore and cannot find buyers.

Just a year ago, the sale of an average horse suitable for recreation - one with neither prized bloodlines nor a performance record to heighten its status - would have fetched several thousand dollars. Today, prices in some cases have dropped to just hundreds of dollars, largely because of higher costs for their maintenance and transport. The result is that a growing number of unwanted horses are being starved or turned loose to fend for themselves in the US West, according to animal welfare advocates.

Feed price increases
On top of the poor sales options, the rising feed prices are also a major concern. Horses eat hay made from either grass or alfalfa, or a mix of both, and a modest amount of grain. Prices fluctuate, but in east central Idaho, hay prices have risen to $US145 ($153) from $US120 ($127) per tonne a year ago, a jump of 21 per cent. In northern Idaho it costs $US220 ($232) per tonne and as much as $US300 ($317) per tonne in parts of California. Feeding a horse can cost $US2,000 ($2,113) a year or more.

Related folder:
Dossier AllAbout Horse nutrition

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