Southeast Drought Wreaks Havoc On Hay Supplies, Leading Farmers To Despair

LEXINGTON, Ky., The rolling hills of central Kentucky appear as scenic as ever. But there's a more troubling picture developing in the bluegrass and beyond.

Horses are starving - even dying - in Kentucky, Tennessee, and at least five other Southeastern states, CBS News correspondent Daniel Sieberg reports.

"This is probably as bad as I've seen in my 30-something years in the hay and straw business," said hay supplier David Brumfield.

Since last year's drought, the price of hay has doubled - and even tripled. Cattle ranchers feel it too - another factor in the rising price of food for people.

"We're getting calls every day from people looking for hay from all over the eastern part of the United States," Brumfield said.

Last year, $50 would buy enough hay to feed a horse for three weeks. Today, that same $50 would get you less than half as much.

"This hay thing has just brought me to my knees," said horse-owner Beverly Danko.

While the major horse farms can absorb the higher costs, Danko's had to cancel her cable and is behind on her rent just to keep her six horses fed.

She says the thought of losing them tears her up. "There is no way that I could ever accept it. And I won't."

On Wednesday, 70 Tennessee walking horses were seized in a county south of Lexington. Elsewhere, horses have been simply abandoned on federal land and in city parks.

"People are giving them away," said Kathy Mitchum of the Lincoln County Humane Society. "We had a guy go with four horses to the local auction and nobody even bid on them. When he left, he tied them up to a post outside and left 'em, cause he knew he couldn't feed 'em."

"Do they ever come in looking pretty starved?" Sieberg asked.

"Yes, they do," said Lori Neagle, founder of the Kentucky Equine Humane Center.

Humane centers are over capacity with rescues. Dixie, found on the side of a busy highway in Louisville, has since been nursed back to health.

"The price of gas, the price of grain and the overall cost of living has really affected people having to give up their horses," Neagle said.

Adoptions can help, but it takes years for damaged pastureland to recover. So an end to the problem may still be a ways down the road.