The cost of fuel affects every aspect of running a horse farm, no matter how big or small.
The farm equipment used to plant, spray, harvest and transport the feed all run on diesel fuel which is now more costly than gasoline. Because of that, the cost of feed has risen exponentially over the past few years. And if that isn’t bad enough, the use of corn to make fuel now has forced up the price of that commodity. That’s a problem because corn is used in almost all feed concentrates on the farm.
Of course, we feed more than the blended concentrates that use the corn and other grains. We feed a lot of hay, the cost of which also is tied to the price of fuel. The big round bales are either wrapped in a plastic mesh or solid plastic wrap, both made from petroleum products. With the unusual weather rain patterns that we’ve experienced over the past few years, the hay crops have been adversely affected in many areas around the country. Because of that, we often have to travel much farther to buy suitable hay, adding transport costs to an already expensive staple on the farm. And, of course, after the horses have enjoyed the benefit of the feed, the manure either has to be spread or hauled away, again using fuel.
Bedding for the horses is usually either wood shavings or straw. My cost for packaged wood shavings went from $2 per bale to $6 for the packed and $6.50 for the pelleted shavings. These increases came about because of the cost of fuel. Again, hauling the timber, milling, collecting the shavings and transportation use diesel fuel. And the packaged shavings come in plastic bags, so when the cost of fuel goes up, it affects the price of the bedding.
If the horses on the farm are being shown, the price of fuel can determine how far away the owner is willing to travel to campaign a horse and how often they will compete. The same goes for horses that are racing. Breeding operations typically have to transport the mares to the stud farms, adding expense to the operation and with no guarantees that one trip will accomplish the desired outcome.
Not much about managing a horse farm isn’t affected by the price of fuel. Even the veterinarians and the farriers have to charge trip fees to cover their travel expenses when they come and tend to the horses.
But for those enthusiasts who are determined to keep their horses, it’s worth it. If they have to, they will take on a second job to cover the cost, and many do.
Cookie Driscoll is owner/manager of Whodathunkit Farm, a full-care boarding and learning facility in Fairfield, Pa.