Hay bank gets money, but supply moving fast

A check for $1,000 is on its way to the Western Slope Hay Bank in Olathe. But more donations are needed to meet the demand of local horse owners struggling to feed their animals, according to the bank’s director.

Kathy Hamm, executive director of both the Western Slope chapter of the Colorado Hay Bank and Dream Catcher Therapy and End of the Trail Horse Rescue, 5814 Colorado Highway 348 in Olathe, said the thousand-dollar donation from the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance is needed this winter as local horses face going hungry. The drought of 2012 and last summer’s wildfires led to poor hay crops and small yields. As a result, Hamm said she’s paying $10 to $12 per hay bale instead of the $5 she paid last year. Even what she can afford is hard to get because horse owners from surrounding states that also experienced the drought have bought up much of Colorado’s available hay, Hamm said.

Hamm usually applies for $12,000 in grant funding to stock the hay bank each year. This year, she anticipated the hay price increase and obtained $25,000 in grant funding. But half of the hay she bought is already gone as horse owners who are struggling to afford higher prices reach out to her for assistance.

Those who get help have to show a true need for the hay on an application, and they only get 10 bales per horse or 25 bales for five horses or more.

“I tell the horse owners, ‘This is a help. I can’t feed your horse throughout the winter. I can just get you through a crunch,’” Hamm said.

The hay shortage has left some horses hungry and others sick, Hamm said, as desperate ranchers either knowingly or unknowingly buy bales of hay that are packaged with sometimes poisonous weeds. Horses won’t eat the weeds in question unless they’re desperate or the weeds are in a hay bale, Hamm said, but those two conditions are happening under current conditions.

Hamm said she welcomes hay donations, but she won’t take bales with weeds in them or what she calls “crap hay.” People can mail checks to the bank’s address — the ZIP code is 81425 — or drop off hay at the bank or make a donation through PayPal at Hamm’s website, dctc.org.

While people can still apply for donations, Hamm said she’s already halfway through this year’s supply. Hamm said most years she gets about a month’s supply of hay and that’s all she needs for that year. But this year, she expects demand to continue past the winter.

She said her phone started ringing non-stop from people seeking hay after the bank’s availability was advertised in a newspaper article in January. Things have cooled down to about three calls a day and two or three pick-ups of hay per week, but she expects to keep busy.

“I think it’s going to continue for quite awhile until we have grass come up,” she said. “Then it’s going to get bad again because they’re telling me we’re going to have a shortage of water. I don’t see this getting better soon.”


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