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Wendy Reuer, Published November 29 2013

Hay Bank aims to help MN horse owners with winter feeding

MOORHEAD – A Minnesota Hay Bank dedicated to helping horse owners feed their animals during rough times is preparing for another winter of high demand and short supply.

The Minnesota Hay Bank, a nonprofit arm of the Minnesota Horse Welfare Coalition, offers horse-quality hay to owners who run into financial difficulties because of a job loss, health reasons or other unexpected hard times.

“They have lots of food banks for people, families in need. We look at the Hay Bank as really a food bank for horses,” said Stacy Bettison, volunteer with the Minnesota Hay Bank.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the drought of 2012 reduced the amount of alfalfa and other horse-quality hay by 3 percent across the Midwest. In Minnesota, about 30,000 fewer acres of hay were planted in 2012 than in 2011, USDA officials said.

The high demand and lower supply sent prices in Minnesota soaring to double and triple the historic average of $3.50 for small square bales, the type of bale usually reserved for horses.

It was then that the coalition saw a need to help horse owners grappling with the increasing cost of feed as winter approached, Bettison said.

“The thought was we really had to come up with some sort of feed assistance during the winter because winter is such a challenging time for horses if they are not properly cared for,” Bettison said.

Since it was founded in December 2012, the Hay Bank has received about 35 applications for help and has fed about 250 horses.

This year, the Hay Bank is depositing supplies ahead of winter by buying about 20 tons of hay that Canterbury Park in Shakopee agreed to store until it is dispersed.

The Hay Bank hoped to raise at least $2,000 by Thanksgiving as part of a “Thanksgiving for Horses” campaign.

“With Thanksgiving for Horses, the idea is that as we prepare our tables for Thanksgiving, we also need to be keeping in mind that we need to be preparing for horses in need,” Bettison said.

As of Wednesday, the Hay Bank had raised about $1,000, but it will continue to accept donations on its website.

For horse owners who may need affordable hay, applications for the Hay Bank are made online and then vetted by coalition officials. If awarded hay, the donations are followed up with an educational component for the horse owners.

“We want to make sure people are able to make good use of the hay,” Bettison said. “Our help is really temporary assistance. We really view it as a short-term way for the applicant to get from point A to point B.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

How to help: Visit www.minnesotahorsewelfare.org/hay-bank