Local News

Drought Making It Harder, More Expensive to Care for Horses

The lack of rain has cut hay production in North Carolina by nearly 50 percent, making it hard to feed horses.

Posted Updated

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — Folks could be feeling the effects of the drought for months to come at home and on the farm. The lack of rain has cut hay production in North Carolina by nearly 50 percent, making it hard to feed animals.

Danielle Jones boards 35 horses on her family's Orange County farm. This year's record drought has made feeding her horses a challenge.

“We're trying to make ends meet now. It's just gonna get worse,” Jones said.

The drought has left pastures brown and farmers scrambling for hay to feed their animals. Jones is trucking in feed from as far away as New York.

Square bales used to go for $5, but they have doubled and could go as high as $15 in the coming months. Round bales that cost $60 to $70 have also doubled in cost.

“Some of the emergency programs, from the USDA to farm services, only apply to food animals,” Karen McAdams, with the Orange County Agriculture Extension office, said.

Some folks see horses as a luxury, so there is little help available in the form of grants and loans, McAdams said.

In recent months, cattle farmers have sold off their cows to cut costs during the hay shortage. That is not the case for horse owners since the market is slow for horse sales.

“Horses are being sold for a couple hundred dollars versus a couple of thousand. Some people can't even give away horses because they're just saying, 'Can someone take them for free?' People just don't want another mouth to feed,” Jones said.

Jones doesn't want to pass on the cost of hay to her boarders. So she is doing things like hosting equestrian events on the farm to supplement her income.

This year may be a bust financially, but Jones said she doesn't want to lose her family farm over the cost of a bale of hay.

North Carolina is home to more than 200,000 horses. The state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services said it is looking for ways to help struggling farmers get through the winter.


Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.