Archive for Sunday, May 4, 2008

Horse prices wane in KS

A horse parades around the arena at Campbell's Sale Barn near Linwood. The barn has been the site of a weekly horse auction for the past 22 years. For a variety of reasons, the bottom has fallen out of the horse market.

A horse parades around the arena at Campbell's Sale Barn near Linwood. The barn has been the site of a weekly horse auction for the past 22 years. For a variety of reasons, the bottom has fallen out of the horse market.

May 4, 2008


— Still shaggy in its winter coat, the colt pirouetted, almost daintily, in the wood shavings on the arena floor.

Its rider and owner, Pat Saffer of Melvern, deftly guided the horse, turning first this way and then that, showing how it responded to gentle inputs with the reins.

Although Saffer would say later that the young chestnut was no great shakes as a horse, to the untrained eye the horse and rider presented a momentary picture of the almost mythical union that they say occurs between a man and a horse.

Then auctioneer Brandon McLagan rapped his gavel to start the proceedings, and any such romantic notions were shattered.

It was Monday night at the horse sale at Campbell's Sale Barn east of Linwood, and the bidding was under way - well, sort of.

Falling prices

Horses are not a hobby for Saffer. He and his wife, Jennifer, run about 50 head on a 400-acre ranch near Melvern.

But for Saffer on this night, the young chestnut wasn't able to generate much interest among bidders. The horse brought only $130.

A couple of years ago, Saffer said, that horse probably would have brought $400.

And so it continued until about midnight, as 42 head of horses and mules went under the gavel. The highest price given for any of the animals was $1,200 for a quarter horse gelding, said sale barn owner Everett Campbell.

That's a far cry from prices of just a couple of years ago, horse sellers say. For a variety of reasons, the bottom has fallen out of the horse market.

Several factors are at play - the price of feed and hay, for example. Rising interest in ethanol production has driven up corn prices, and boarding and pasturage costs also have risen.

But the chief reason, many sellers say, is that animal-rights advocates forced the closure of slaughterhouses in Texas and Illinois that formerly kept prices higher.

In 2006, the last year they were in full operation, horse slaughter plants in DeKalb, Ill., and Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, killed 100,800 horses, processed the meat and sent it overseas for human consumption, much of it to France.

After years of campaigning by animal-rights advocates such as the Humane Society of the United States, the plants were closed in 2007. In Texas, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stood by its January 2007 ruling that upheld a state law banning the sale of horse meat for human consumption. The law had been enacted in 1949 but never enforced.

The Illinois plant was closed in March 2007 after a judge ruled it illegal for the plant to pay the U.S. Department of Agriculture for inspection costs. Congress eliminated funding for the inspections in 2005. Later in 2007, Illinois also passed a law prohibiting the sale of horse meat for human consumption.

'Back in the day'

Previously, Saffer and others say, the slaughterhouses set a floor for horse prices. If the slaughterhouses would pay 50 cents a pound for horses, any plug horse that weighed 1,000 pounds was worth $500.

Without that floor, there is almost no bottom to the market.

Witness the $130 for Saffer's first horse. He didn't consider that price an adequate recompense for the hours he spent training the animal, but of even greater concern was his next commission, a 2-year-old paint quarter horse gelding, similarly trained, that sold for $460.

"Back in the day," Saffer said, "that horse would have brought $1,500, $1,600."

The market is flooded with unregistered, worthless horses, Saffer said. Most of the animals at Monday night's sale should have gone to slaughter, he said.

Campbell, owner of the Linwood sale barn that was the site of a horse sale almost every Monday for the past 22 years, agrees that the quality of the stock offered for sale is down.

Reasons for drop

The closure of the slaughter market is partly responsible, but is only one factor, Campbell said.

"It's fuel prices and grain prices that's hurtin' everything - not only the horse market, but everything in general."

Occasionally an animal comes through that generates attention.

A horse at a recent sale sold for $4,000, Campbell recalled.

Other nearby horse sales are in Salina and Tulsa, Okla.

Hay and grain prices have risen considerably, as have costs for boarding.

At one area facility, boarding costs have risen from $425 to $475 a month in two years. Pasturage prices are up as well. Costs at Oakridge Farm in Shawnee Mission Park have gone from $150 a month in 2005 to $165 a month today.

The debate over the closure of the slaughterhouses goes to the bone in horse country, and it is a debate that centers on the relationship between a horse and its owner.

"A horse is a livestock animal," Bob Saffer said.

Sally Dwyer at Seven Oaks Ranch, a boarding facility in Spring Hill, disagrees.

"There's two schools of thought on that," Dwyer said. "These horse people, they don't like to see horses slaughtered. They don't like to see horses go over to France for horse meat."

And, although horse prices are down, that's not bad news for everyone, Dwyer said.

"It's a good time to buy a horse right now," she said.


workinghard 7 years, 5 months ago

New car sales have also gone down, don't think we can blame animal rights groups for that. How about housing prices, people bought houses for outragous prices and now cannot sell them because they are worth less now than what they paid. The stock market is way down from what it was, is animal rights to blame for that too. The fact is people are hurting for money right now and don't have it to spend. When the economy improves and people can once again afford luxury items like horses, the price will go back up. Most of the horse people I know, if they want a GOOD horse, they would not go to the Linwood sale barn to get it. Maybe occasionally you might be one of the lucky ones and not get ripped off, but usually they are problem horses nobody wants. I know one family that bought a pony there for their kids. The owner walked it around, had a kid on it to show how gentle it was. Well, when they got it home and the drugs that the man had given it wore off, they couldn't get anywhere near it.

workinghard 7 years, 5 months ago

Don't worry, they can still sell the mares to Canada to be kept pregnant the rest of their lives for their urine. Maybe then people will quit stealing mares in the US and taking them to Canada to sell. Ever wonder what happens to the colts (I assume they keep the fillies) after they are born? The hair from a horse's tail can also be sold to make hair weaves for show horses. Not sure, but do they still use horse meat in dog food? Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the fact people just don't have the money right now for food and utilities, much less a horse. Unless you have had your head in the sand, the economy has been rough the past few years and people can't afford the things they use to. When the economy gets better, horses will go back up in price.

Centerville 7 years, 5 months ago

If wishes were horses, the Humane Society of America would be run by people with a clue. Did you know that the national director has never personally even cared for a pet? And he doesn't intend to. He's too busy sitting in his K street office and telling the rubes how to manage their livestock.

igby 7 years, 5 months ago

It's a shame that such a loyal and trusted animal that has served mankind with it's service for thousands of years will befall it's destiny to the likes of some semi-suburban goat ropers, who only see it for it's slaughter value.

deviant_delusion 5 years, 3 months ago

I just want to say that horse auctions are NOT just for crap horses. I've gotten a great many wonderful horses from sale barns including Kingsville Auction in Missouri. People have always fallen on hard times when it comes to horses. Unfortunately it happens. Generally speaking horse prices use to rise in the summer and fall in the winter as people became unable to pay for feed for them when it wasn't readily available. And just because horses are taken to auction DOES NOT mean that they are unwanted at all, or problem horses. Sometimes people have to part with a beloved animal in an effort to continue providing for their family. My family trained horses all of my life, and at certain points we had to sell some of our most valued horses to get money to continue to have a place to live, and food to eat. And I, at many points was very upset as a child and even teenager having to let them go to random strangers with full wallets. I train horses today and will continue to do so for as long as I'm able, because horses are a value to society, people, and they teach people alot of neccesary values. As far as the humane society goes they can EAT IT. Because they get paid through donations and other random benefactors to provide a service that most of it's employees don't understand. If they continue on the bout their in, and get their way no one will own a pet of any kind without reporting to, and paying them. However to be honest I think the auction houses should only sell to qualified individuals with correct knowledge on how to care for an animal. Because to be honest that pony mentioned in earlier posts was probally a first time horse buyer product to parents who had no idea how to deal with one to begin with. As in, the horse was just fine, but was changed environments, and therefore needed adjusting time and people who know how to handle an animal. You can't just buy a horse and expect it to act the same way with you as it has with it's lifetime owner. You have to get their trust first. I wouldn't put my child on the most expensive most extensively trained horse without riding it myself first and teaching my child how to ride to begin with. Also, I seriously doubt the horse was drugged to go to an auction. I think you may not be aware that people who are already taking a loss do not generally invest more money to just be thrown away. (those drugs cost money genius) Also most auctions have onsite vets who check all the animal prior to sale, and perform coggins tests.

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