West Texas drought drives up the price of hay




Posted on April 7, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 7 at 7:02 PM

EL PASO — Texas is still deep in a drought. That will be little relief this summer, as already-strapped ranchers are starting to pay more for hay.

Sleek race horses have worked up a big appetite running at nearby Sunland Park Racetrack across the border in New Mexico. But there's a bigger price tag for feeding the horses these days.

"It's going up. Yeah, todo el tiempo," a stall worker said.

He said the price of hay is higher because of a lingering drought in the Southwest.

Even though it's spring, some hay growers in West Texas have already sold their supply as ranchers brace for another dry summer.

"Basically everything is gone. That's why we're buying from Arizona, and it's good quality hay," said Daniel Castaneda, who sells hay near the racetrack.

"Our average client has at least 30 horses, so we have to buy it by the ton," he added.

Castaneda brings it to Texas by the truckload.

Of course, these are pampered race horses, and they get the best of everything. But what about ordinary horses?

Last year when the price of hay spiked, some owners abandoned their animals. Others may have to sell, and that includes race horses.

Castaneda is the proud owner of a retired race horse. His name is Special Night Retired. Castaneda tries to find good homes for others.

But there's growing concern that more horses will be sold at auction if the price of hay continues to climb.

E-mail akocherga@belo.com