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Adelaide racehorse rescue group posts urgent sale as drought-related feed shortage strikes

By Alice Dempster, Wednesday April 24, 2019 - 08:31 EST
ABC image
Kerry Rose takes in former standardbred racehorses and retrains them to become suitable for show or recreational riding. - ABC

A racehorse rescue organisation has said it is urgently looking for homes for its horses as drought-related feed shortages continue to affect stock owners across Australia.



Chapel Lodge Standardbred Rescue and Rehabilitation owner Kerry Rose said the stress of trying to find available feed, combined with inflated prices, had taken its toll.

In early April, Ms Rose posted on Facebook that the drought had forced her to "make the tough decision to urgently try and find homes for all the horses ASAP".

She said the issue stemmed mainly from hay shortages around Australia, as livestock owners scrambled to find and afford feed for their animals.

"We've usually got two farmers that we deal with … Just because of the weather and all that, one farmer produced a low yield and basically sold all his hay — round bales that we'd usually buy — to someone for a high price," she said.

"Which is what we're seeing; obviously, because they've had their low yield they need to get some money back so they can put in crops next year, so that's what he did.

"Then my other farmer that I deal with actually didn't even bale — it wasn't worth it. That's just the season in general, it was that bad."



Ms Rose said feeding her 28 horses was costing her $1,200 a week, where her pre-drought feed costs had been sitting at $600 to $700 a week.

She said the issue had been building for eight to 12 months, and other horse owners were experiencing the same difficulties.

"I think in the big picture … everything is to do with the drought," she said.

"One little ball just starts rolling — we can't sell horses because people don't have feed, we can't take horses in because we don't have feed... everything's just a vicious cycle.

"We just need rain … We have five drops fall from the sky, and we start having a dance, but it's just not enough.

"All small horse owners, they are all struggling, and they're stressing out. They're wondering, in three months' time, when there is no hay around, what are we going to feed our horses?"

Fodder industry CEO confirms supply is 'very, very tight'

Australian Fodder Industry Association chief executive officer John McKew said: "We're in a very tight supply situation for fodder".

"We've seen the horrendous situations faced throughout Queensland and then of course, throughout New South Wales, but even down into northern Victoria and east Gippsland these days are all very, very dry," Mr McKew said.

"I think there are very few parts of Australia at the moment you could count as being seasonally in a good position.

"So that long-term drought has really exacerbated the shortage we're facing for fodder."

On average in Adelaide, 108 millimetres of rain is recorded by the end of April, but so far this year only 17.8mm has fallen at the West Terrace weather station.

The record for the driest first four months of the year is 19.2mm, set in 1888.



Mr McKew said prices "ratcheted up quite significantly" through the second half of 2018, and the industry began to notice a spike in demand for fodder products.

"If you can find the source of fodder, that's one thing — but whether you're going to find it palatable to pay that price, that's another," Mr McKew said.

"From an economics point of view, it's pure supply and demand at the moment, and as a result prices have remained very, very high for virtually all fodder-related products."

Both Mr McKew and Ms Rose said the only answer to the problem was rain.

RSPCA says feed shortage affecting number of callouts

An RSPCA South Australia spokesperson told the ABC that "inspectors have certainly been attending quite a few callouts for horses in poor condition due to the cost and lack of feed".

She said there had been more reports of horses in poor condition in areas north of Adelaide.



"The regions where there are the most reports are the outer metro areas — and beyond — in both the north and the south," the spokesperson said.

"In the north, especially Dublin, Two Wells, Lewiston and Kudla.

"In the south, Macclesfield, Adelaide Hills, Meadows … but no real stand-outs, more random."

Ms Rose said although there had been expressions of interest in her horses, a lot of people expected them to be giveaways.

She said tough decisions were on the horizon if she could not find suitable owners.

"To me, giving a horse away — you don't know where it's going," she said.

"They have to meet some kind of criteria before they can actually be looked at … because, in all honesty, I might as well send them to horsey heaven otherwise. Because I'm not going to have them starve in a paddock.

"Unfortunately, it's a horrible thought to have them go to slaughter, but in the long run, I think, that's the kinder option."


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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