PHOTOGRAPH | MARK LLEWELLYN
Global issues fueling feed price increases 307 million metric tons (MMT). In 2008,
I f you’ve paid careful attention to your re- nearly one-third of the harvest, about 105
ceipts from the feed store, you certainly MMT, is expected to be used for the produc-
have noticed that the price of horse feed has tion of ethanol. This has increased dramati-
crept up to unheard-of levels. And while it cally since 2000, when only about 15 MMT
might be tempting to assign blame to your were tagged for ethanol production.
local feed manufacturer, larger forces are at Because of the demand for ethanol, corn
work. There are ﬁve key factors that account prices have risen signiﬁcantly. Farmers have
for skyrocketing grain prices: biofuel produc- chosen to cultivate corn instead of other
tion, extreme weather patterns across the crops because corn has become more proﬁt-
globe, high oil prices, currency ﬂuctuations, able. Overproduction of corn, however, has
and a surge in global food demand. diminished the acreage available for other
Biofuel production. Ethanol is the most crops, causing them to become scarcer and
popular renewable biofuel today. Used as an thus more costly to feed manufacturers.
alternative automotive fuel, ethanol is made in Some agricultural economists believe the
a multistep process. First, the starch portion of ethanol boom is slowing down. With corn
the corn kernel is converted to sugar. The sugar prices soaring, ethanol producers are faced
is then subjected to fermentation, and ﬁnally with higher input costs and are therefore not
the mix is distilled to yield ethanol. realizing the proﬁts they once did.
The United States grows approximately one- Extreme weather patterns. Despite the ad-
half of the world’s corn, equivalent to about vances made in cultivating crops over the last
EQUINEWS | SUMMER 3
PHOTOGRAPH | MARK LLEWELLYN
As grain prices increase, horse
owners should maximize their use
of forages such as pasture.
several decades, little can be achieved with- Canadian dollar have increased steadily in
out the cooperation of the weather. A series of recent years.
unfortunate weather occurrences has been a
Some economists postulate that about
factor in rising feed costs.
one-third of the recent rise in corn price is a
For instance, drought-stricken Australia ex- reﬂection of the weak United States dollar.
ported considerably less wheat in 2007 than
Surge in global food demand. Billions of
in previous years, down more than 20%. As
people are buying more food than ever before,
one of the world’s biggest wheat produc-
especially in ﬂourishing China and India. Peo-
ers, such a shortfall aﬀects the entire global
ple in these countries have the wherewithal
outlook. Southern Africa has been aﬀected by
to purchase food rather than growing their
a prolonged drought as well. Recent ﬂooding
own. Increasing meat consumption in these
in China has destroyed 5.5 million hectares of
countries, for example, has helped boost the
wheat and rapeseed.
demand for grain. In China, beef consump-
In addition to this, an abnormally dry grow- tion has increased by 26% since 2000, and
ing season across northern Europe threatens pork, which was already a popular food item,
grain yields. Smaller crops have been reported rose by 19%. In India, chicken consumption
in Canada and the United States as well. has almost doubled in eight years. More grain
is necessary to feed animals intended for
High oil prices. The recent spike in oil prices
has a direct eﬀect on rising feed costs. Fore-
most, oil prices impact the cost of planting, Other countries are also prospering. Since
cultivating, and harvesting crops. In addition, 2002, the combined gross domestic prod-
oil prices also aﬀect freight costs as grains uct of the 24 largest emerging markets has
are shipped from place to place, sometimes doubled, and per capita income has risen
overseas. And ﬁnally, high oil prices drive up nearly 14% a year.
feed manufacturing costs.
Economists theorize that increased grain prices
Currency ﬂuctuations. Most internation- can be attributed equally among three factors:
ally exchanged grains are traded in dollars.
In recent years, the value of the U.S. dollar (1) biofuel, weather incidents, and oil prices;
has plummeted. This is completely inverse to
what is happening in other parts of the world. (2) currency ﬂuctuations; and
The values of other currencies such as the
Euro, British pound, Australian dollar, and (3) wealth in emerging markets.
4 EQUINEWS | FEED PRICES
FOR HORSE OWNERS
Horse owners should accept the inevitable with an equine nutritionist to ensure that you
increases that have occurred recently in feed are using an appropriate forage for the horses
prices. Some of the factors that caused the you are feeding. Likewise, contact an agrono-
recent upsurge might not be so detrimental mist or a pasture specialist to be sure you are
in the future (weather may be conducive for getting the most out of your grazing acreage.
high yields, for example), and consumers may
• Be suspicious of feed manufacturers that
realize a slight relaxation in prices.
have not raised their prices. Historically,
By taking a few minutes to closely examine when one feed ingredient became too pricey
your management schemes, you might be to include in horse feeds, an alternate was
able to ﬁnd ways to cut costs. Here are a few available. Not so today. The price of all feed
examples. ingredients has increased. Corn, wheat, oats,
and soybean prices have reached all-time
• Take a critical look at body condition.
highs. Add in the increased costs of other in-
Certainly, some owners like to see their
gredients such as vitamins and minerals, and
horses ﬂeshier than need be. Optimal body
feed prices are bound to rise. To maintain the
condition occurs when the ribs cannot be
quality of feed, manufacturers must ask con-
seen but can be felt on gentle palpation. Over-
sumers to help shoulder the ﬁnancial burden.
weight horses are often a strain on the horse
If a feed manufacturer does not increase pric-
owner’s budget because they consume too
es, there is a possibility that premium-quality
much concentrate. Horses that maintain their
grains are being replaced by inexpensive ones,
weight on forage-only diets do not usually
which invariably lowers the nutritional con-
require any concentrate. A well-formulated
tent of the feed.
balancer pellet will ensure that vitamin and
mineral needs are being met. • Buy high-quality horse feed. Certain
horses require fortiﬁed concentrates to grow
• Maximize forage use. Horses have evolved
and work because they cannot consume
on diets composed entirely of forage. There-
suﬃcient calories through forages to grow to
fore, forage should be the primary compo-
their genetic potential or to maintain opti-
nent of a horse’s diet. While all forage oﬀered
mal body condition. When concentrates are
to horses should be free of dust, mold, weeds
necessary, be sure you are feeding high-qual-
and foreign debris, the quality of the forage
ity, fully fortiﬁed feeds. Low-end brands
can vary depending on the type of horses be-
often do not contain suﬃcient fortiﬁcation
ing fed. Weanlings and yearlings, for instance,
to adequately support growth or exercise.
will likely fare better on an alfalfa mix as it con-
Though the price may be slightly higher at
tains more energy and nutrients for growth,
the counter, there is no comparison as to
but the same hay might be completely inap-
propriate for a group of idle geldings. Work
EQUINEWS | SUMMER 5