Drought Creating Desperate Conditions for Texas Horses – Can You Help? Do You Have Hay Where You Are?

by grokHorses on November 18, 2011

Round bales by the truckload

Truckloads of Hay MAY Be Available in Colorado - Click Image for Info

Horse owners and breeders in Texas are being severely impacted by the extended extreme drought which is so serious and continued unabated so long that owners are giving horses away because they can not feed them.

The New York Times reports in Catastrophic Drought in Texas Causes Global Economic Ripples:

At the moment, 70 percent of Texas is experiencing “exceptional drought”
the worst classification — along with 55 percent of Oklahoma and significant
chunks of Louisiana, New Mexico and Kansas. Northern Mexico is also affected.

When one area has a hay shortage, normally hay is trucked in from other areas. This drought is so widespread that coastal hay – the grass hay most widely fed to horses in Texas – is nearly impossible to locate at any price. The hay shortage is so severe that ranchers are feeding everything from corn stalks to  what is being called wheat hay or wheat tops but is really more like wheat straw (what horses are usually bedded on – not fed).

HAY SHORTAGE

Hay has become so hard to find and rare in Texas that CBS News ran this video back in September of this year: Hay The Latest Target For Thieves As Prices Skyrocket – and it has gotten even worse since then. What little rain we have had was barely enough to turn the grass green. Trees that have not had leaves all spring or summer have just a few now because it rained. Even mesquite trees have no beans on them.

Bales are being trucked in from as far away as Montana grass hay and they’re asking $70 a bale. I don’t know offhand what the cost of trucking hay 1700 miles would be but it wouldn’t be very cost effective. Today I did see an ad for “fresh good grass hay” for $110 with free delivery within 50 miles of Rockwall, TX but it is strange to not specify what type of grass hay.

Coastal Round Bales

Coastal Round Bales

Horse owners need to be cautious and look at the hay first whenever possible because hay quality this year – even at $110-$150 per bale has been very poor this year. To put this situation in perspective, the normal cost in a non-drought year for top quality coastal 5×6 round bales weighing over 1200 lbs baled by a John Deere is $30-$45.

In non-drought years, top quality coastal two-wire square bales weighing 60-70 lbs cost  $2.50-$4.50 in the field depending on where in Texas you are and how much fertilizer was applied. This year light 2-wire square bales are running $7-$15 per bale with over $10 or $12 more common. One hay broker I know even invested in a machine that unrolls round bales so he could re-bale it as square bales.

CATTLE BEING SOLD OFF

This hay wanted page scrolls on and on. Most cattle ranchers have sold off half or all of their cattle. The first thing Ag majors I have know tell me Texas A&M teaches them is “never try to feed through a drought“.  From that same New York Times article on how the drought affects Texas cattle ranchers:

“The cattle industry is also reeling. Many Texas ranchers are selling off
large parts of their herds as the grass dries out and water becomes scarce.
Some are buying hay from farms a thousand miles away,
despite the high cost of shipping.”

“Already, Texas ranchers sold or culled roughly 600,000 heads of cattle,”

Against this backdrop I am for the first time ever asking for your assistance in a dire financial situation.While I have passed along worthy causes and emergency calls for funding for others as GrowMap, I have never personally asked for your help before. I give away most of my time assisting any blogger or business needing answers and doing important work that makes no money – like bringing together collaborations to benefit bloggers and small business and create a better world.

This is why I need your assistance. I have a friend who is partners in Paws Patrol, an official animal rescue that saves dogs and cats, puppies and kittens by taking them out of the local animal shelters and putting them in foster homes until they can be placed. You can see the Paws Patrol Pet Rescue Facebook page here.

RESCUING HORSES

Lg Square Bales Alfalfa Timothy Orchard Grass Canada

Large Square Bales of Alfalfa Timothy Orchard Grass from Canada

Horses are not part of their official tax-deductible mission, but my friend is a horse lover who can not stand to see pregnant mares or young foals being sent to their deaths.

She rescues the horses no one else will take and works full time as a nurse in a hospital and does home health care nursing as sole support of her family and to care for the rescued horses.

She has been rescuing horses for all the years I have known her just fine,
but last month was a month like no other.

I should write a novel because the truth is stranger than fiction –
but it would be considered unbelievable.

She does not know I am writing this so I will have to seek her forgiveness rather than her permission.

One emergency after another.

First her Father passed away which was not unexpected as he had serious health problems and was over 70. She and her Mother flew his body from Texas to Indiana to be buried, partly because they had been unable to sell their burial plots there but also because that was his home town where he lived all his life until her parents needed her to care for them.

The day after she and her Mother got back to Texas her Mother had what the Doctor called a Cardiac event. This was a shock to her as her Mom had Alzheimers but doctors had assure her she had no life-threatening conditions. Exactly two weeks after her Father died her Mother passed away.

While she was in Indiana to bury her Mother, 11 horses including her favorite filly went missing. While I was walking huge pastures looking for them, and not finding them, checking fences for any place they could have gotten out I saw an ambulance going out the private road. Then one Sheriff. Then another.

11 missing horses and now an ambulance?
WHAT in the world is going on?

I called to find out what was going on and was told the woman who lived at the far back of the property had tried to overdose and then had her roommate call an ambulance. When I found no broken fences I thought maybe the ambulance had left the gate open coming in and the horses had gone out that way. So I walked all the way out and checked the bar ditches (wide grassy areas common on the sides of the road in Texas).

Eleven horses would leave an obvious trail – hoofprints, droppings, and grass trampled or eaten down. When there were no signs they got out that way, I walked to the only other gate out of the property – where the ambulance had picked up the woman. There is a fence there and normally closed and chained gates.

I first thought maybe the ambulance had left
the gate open there, but I found it closed.

I hated to add to the stress my friend already had from both her parents passing – and usually I don’t call people with bad news if they can not do anything about it – but this was so serious I felt I had to tell her. I told her I was going to check that yard and the fences in it and I would call her back and let her know what I found.

By now it was dark, but I knew what happened to stolen horses and it was beginning to look like theft was a possibility.

Who steals horses during a drought when horses are selling
at auction for under $20 or not getting any bids at all? 

Only someone desperate – or who has a truck going to killer plants in Mexico – where they could clear about $100 per horse so 11 horses would be a fast $1100. So time was of the essence. With a flashlight I examined the yard.

I had already called all the neighbors and one was
out driving nearby roads looking for any sign of them.

There were droppings everywhere as though the horses had been in there a long time. How long had the ambulance been there? It shouldn’t have been very long as they were rushing her to the ICU. There was a gate open in the back. I went out the gate and to the left looking for evidence the horses went that way. Nothing. So I went back in the gate and started checking the fences found the fence damaged on the back right corner.

Out into an area that is usually lake, but dry because of the drought, I walked slowly in the dark and there was what I was seeking: hoofprints everywhere and droppings – but no sign the horses were out there eating – no horse sounds – and there was grass and brush to eat there!

If they had just wandered through an open gate
they would be right there close eating.

So I followed their tracks – no easy task in the dark by the light of a flashlight on uneven cracked ground where water used to be. The only dog I hadn’t locked inside had followed me and started barking. There was a HUGE water snake swimming by us. Fortunately he obeyed my commands to go home. He could have gone after the snake.

Maybe it was a common harmless water snake –
But it COULD have been a poisonous water moccasin.
Both are common in Texas.

I had no idea there was so much unfenced land out there – it had to be over 100 acres and kept getting wider and wider with only a few posts from long-gone fences here and there. Way to the right were trees and probably a fence line, but it was too dark to tell if the fence was up or there might be places they could get through.

Still no sign of the horses and hard to track in brush and cracked soil so I kept going and eventually came to a barn and then a mobile home at the end of a street.  When I walked toward that first place, a young man came outside and I asked if he had seen 11 horses. 

Fortunately I ran into the one person
who knew what happened to them.

In the middle of the night the night before they had run out onto his yard. Someone called the county who sent cowboys with dogs to herd them into a trailer and haul them away to some unknown location. Until that moment I was still thinking they had gotten out that day, but he said they were kept up until 2 a.m. the night before while the cowboys tried to contain the horses and get them loaded. He said one of them might be cut as though he went through a fence.

Something wasn’t adding up. I feed just before dark and had fed extra because a potential buyer was supposed to come the next day and I wanted them to stay close. Even when I don’t feed extra, they sleep by the barn until almost daylight and then they go grazing. They should definitely NOT have been out running like they were being chased sometime very late that Friday night.

The county only had 9 of them.
Where did the other two go?

One solitary truck drove up the street. The people in the truck said they knew where the other two were. They had run way up the street so the horse trader who lived there had caught them and put them in his own pasture. I walked all the way there to see which two were there and if they were alright.

The owner wasn’t home, but one man who worked for him came out of the house. The first thing he said was, “someone probably tried to steal them”. Fortunately, those two horses were fine and he insisted on driving me back because he was afraid I would encounter the alligators locals claim are in that lake.

I wasn’t looking forward to trying to find my
way back several miles in the dark anyway.

Some snakes hunt at night –
others sleep in grass and I might step on one.

I called some neighbors back who I knew would be up late and told them I had found out what happened to them. The others I called in the morning early. I couldn’t sleep because every time I closed my eyes the movies of the killer plant in Mexico would flash through my mind.

The county would give no information so we did not
know where they were taken or if they were injured.

And they would not tell us until after 8 on Monday!

Monday first thing my friend – who should have been recovering from burying her Mom – was trying to get through to the county. Busy…busy….busy….Finally!  Problem. They only take cash or personal check – no PayPal – no debit or credit cards. (Typical government – lost in a time warp. What year IS this?) And she isn’t flying back until Wednesday and every day more charges.

Having horses impounded is like having your car impounded – and
no sleep for me – knowing that the same people who the county hires often
work for the sales companies that send horses to Mexico – and not knowing
if the horses are injured or sick or being fed or even where they are.

Our wonderful hay man – who is buying alfalfa from far away at great expense and additional work for him so his customers’ horses and cattle will have hay – even though he is fighting cancer – saves the day by going straight from his Doctor to the county and writing his own personal check for $795 to bail the horses out.

Even though my friend takes the animals the county can’t place
including a cremello horse wandering in the back yard because
he has hearing and/or vision problems…

And even though they know that we are not at fault and whose yard
they went through the fence in – A place they should not have been in the first place –
and whose owner – well you read the beginning, right?
They don’t give her any consideration on that steep fee.
At least they didn’t write her a ticket or warning.

The nine horses the county had were many miles away. They were delivered Monday late and our wonderful hay man had negotiated a price of only $50 to haul them home. The other two were supposed to be brought back, but that didn’t happen until my friend went there and stayed and waited and finally they made the time to bring them the few miles.

Since she knew and worked with them at the local horse sale and she would take home the problem horses that would not sell and for one reason or another could not be sent to Mexico, they did not charge anything for feeding them or hauling them home.

Finally, maybe I could get a good night’s sleep.

Until I walked outside and the horse she bailed out that belonged to the woman who was in ICU had a halter on it. I immediately called her roommate. We had hoped they would send her to long term rehab. No such luck. They just let her go. We may never know exactly how the horses came to be in her yard or what happened that sent them running through a fence, past taller grass than any inside the pasture (thanks to the drought), and miles away.

I had found out she took a title loan out on her truck before all this happened. That would indicate a need for money – another reason to believe that was why the horses were in her yard instead of sleeping by the barn where they should have been – and that someone did something to cause them to run through that back fence.

Knowing what horses normally do and proving
what happened are two different things.

On top of everything else, because of all this and talking to so many people while the horses were missing we found out she has not paid anything on the property taxes on the land where the horses are since 2009. She says “she has it taken care of” and has “payment arrangements”, but the county says otherwise. And I called them twice just to be sure.

Thousands of dollars owed on back taxes.

She is obviously NOT going to pay anything on the taxes, so that means we have to start making payments on that, too. She may not mind waiting to see what the county might do, but we aren’t willing to risk that. Besides all the work time I lost tracking the horses and not being able to sleep I am losing even more checking every time the dogs bark or the horses aren’t visible from a window.

We don’t know what really happened or whether it will happen again.
We have no way of knowing if someone with a truck and trailer was involved who
could come back.  Or what else might happen if she falls off the wagons again.

Moving would be a good idea, but finding large pastures with a barn and house
Where you can have many horses and the dogs that can’t be adopted out –
And the cats that are wild or would rather hunt than live in a house and be pets –
That is within commuting distance of her hospital job and home care patients –

Hard to do. We’re looking. There is one place that MIGHT be empty MAYBE.

SO HERE’S THE PROBLEM

Between two flights to Indiana, $795 to bail the horses out, hauling costs to get them back, lost work hours looking for them and checking on them around the clock in case they try to take them again, and the horses losing weight thanks to this little adventure – we need to increase what we feed – but are fresh out of ready cash or anything we could quickly sell.

One stock tank (that’s Texan for pond) has gone completely dry due to the drought and the other is down by at least half – maybe even 2/3 – hard to estimate because the depth varies and the shape is irregular. So that means filling water barrels and another added expense.

We NEED to buy hay and grain TODAY.

We’re paying $300 a bale for 4×5 square bales of alfalfa because that is more cost efficient than paying $120-$150 per round bale for less than great quality grass hay. The horses are overdue to be trimmed. All that costs far more than it ever has before. And on top of all that we have to pay something on the property taxes or risk having no place to keep the horses at all!

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:

If each of my 22,646 followers could spare just ten cents we could do everything we need to do and get back to self-sufficiency. We all know there is no way to reach all of my followers and many would not read this long story or be willing to help.

I just hope that SOME of the people I have encouraged, mentored,
assisted, retweeted
or linked to might have a few spare bills
or even some spare change – you will have our eternal gratitude
and I will assist you in any way I can as I always have –
but that is not a tax-deductible donation.

  • If you want to donate to the official PawsPatrol animal rescue they accept donations – but only apparently by snail mail – and can provide tax deductible receipts.
  • Maybe you have been planning to buy one of the few things I recommend that I use and believe in – now would be a great help to us and eventually we would have the commission (usually in a month or so) – and you would have something you wanted to get anyway.
  • Or maybe you or someone you know could use my local search directory listings or blog outreach services. Or my best offer, my Small Business Internet Marketing Starter Package.

Do you know anyone who could adopt a horse?  Young, healthy horses here could use a loving home with someone who can afford to care for them. There would be a small adoption fee to ensure that adoptees do not send them to the killer plants.

Maybe I should launch an adopt-a-horse program where you “pick” a horse and contribute to that horse’s expenses but it stays here?

Finally, the purpose of this blog includes:

  1. My intention to offer to post photos and details of horses that need homes
  2. Wanted requests from those who are seeking a horse to adopt,
  3. To connect those who so desperately need hay with those who have hay to spare here on this blog.

Anyone have other suggestions? The drought is predicted to continue and horse owners are in desperate straights. They are giving horses away to anyone who will take them. One horse trader tells me he went to look at fifty plus free horses expecting a rescue situation. They were fat and healthy and the owner just wanted out.

On top of everything else just yesterday a breeder dropped off 7 foals at the sale all too young to have been weaned already. One little filly is far too young and needs to be either fed like an orphan or ideally put on a nurse mare.As if my friend did not have enough to deal with but she could not bear the thought of what will happen to this little filly if someone who did not know what to do ended up with her.

Someone else gave the other 6 a home – they can eat regular feed – and will find homes for them on the Internet – but today we will be finding out if either of the two mares she rescued earlier this year will accept her. They both still have heavy milk and their foals are just now old enough to be weaned. If that doesn’t work we will teach her to drink milk from a bucket.

I hope someone out there hears me and will help. Thank you.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: