(Update: Adding KTVZ.COM Poll; vet speaks on whether horses could eat hemp instead)
A mix of bad weather and Oregon farmers switching out hay for hemp has caused a major hay shortage on the High Desert.
The shortage has hit many horse ranches that rely on hay during the winter months.
Winter is a crucial time for horses. Because of the cold weather, there is no grass, so the horses rely on hay grown during the summer.
” Your pastures are covered with snow or frozen, and there’s no nutrition in that, ” said Gary English, the owner of Alpenridge Farms east of Bend, said Tuesday. ” You have got to feed them during the winter months. You can’t just put them out in the pasture. Most people will use supplements, but that’s not the major forage for a horse. A horse has to have some hay. ”
According to the Humane Society of the United States a 1,000-pound horse will eat 15 to 20 pounds of hay a day which is close to three tons a year.
English has around 30 horses on his ranch. If he wasn’t considered a long-term customer with his hay supplier, he said he would have expected to pay at least $3,000 more this year.
The 2018 Farm Bill helped legalize hemp and broadened farmers’ ability to grow the crop.