FRANKTOWN, Colo. -- Colorado’s drought is causing serious concerns for ranchers and horse owners across the state.
The animals eat hay every day as a staple of their diet. The food source is becoming much more expensive because of this year’s drought.
“We’ve normally been paying $65 a bale. Now we’re paying between $90 and $125 or more for those bales,” said Andrea Mena, vice president of Drifters Hearts of Hope Rescue.
Drifters Hearts of Hope is a nonprofit horse rescue specializing in saving equines from slaughter. Since 2014, it has saved 336 horses.
The increase in price is due, in part, to a poor yield from hay fields. According to Mena, Colorado’s hay farmers typically produce four cuts per year.
“This year because of the drought the hay didn’t grow as quickly so unfortunately some farmers were only able to get one to two, sometimes two to three cuts of hay,” she said.
Additionally, there is an increased demand for hay because pastures didn’t produce enough food for horses over the summer.
“People who are normally able to feed their horse based on the pasture aren’t able to,” she said.
The price increase is forcing more horse owners than usual to give up their animals.
“We normally get owner surrenders maybe one or two a month," Mena said. "We get people who call and say, 'Hey I can’t keep my horse anymore.'
"We are getting between two and three calls a day from people who can no longer keep their horses and afford to feed them."
Drifters Hearts of Hope would normally take those horses in but because of the hay shortage it is considering scaling back its operations.
“The tough thing is to be a responsible rescue we can only bring in as many horses as we can feed,” Mena said.
The nonprofit would have to pay about $6,000 more per month to keep up with the demand for hay it normally requires. The rescue says it can’t afford to do that.
“If they can’t afford to feed them and we can’t take them in, the only options are really to send them to a not so great place, which is slaughter,” Mena said.
To help offset the costs, Drifters Hearts of Hope is hosting a had Drive. It will accept donations to feed the horses it has now and to stockpile hay for the winter.
The drive will be held on Sept. 29 at King of Hearts Ranch (9555 Deerfield Road in Franktown) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There will be an open house, tack sale and hay drive. The day will feature tours of the barns, a chance to meet the adoptable horses and there will be both horse-related and non-horse-related items for sale.