Equine Economic Impact Exceeds $2 Billion In State
A new study by Auburn University is bound to spur interest in Alabama's horse industry. It indicates equines have an annual economic impact in excess of $2.4 billion on the state's economy.
Dr. Joseph Molnar, an Auburn University professor of agricultural economics and rural sociology, headed up the two-year study funded by the Alabama Horse Council, Alabama Agriculture Experiment Station and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Due to be published this spring, the study is the first in more than a decade that focuses on horses in Alabama.
"There are an estimated 187,000 horses in the state," Molnar said, "and according to our research, 4.9 percent of all households in the state have horses. But what is really interesting is the amount of money spent on these animals by their owners. Horse people spend a lot of money on horses for non-economic reasons. Personal attachment is most likely the real reason.
"In many cases, horses are different from most livestock," Molnar added. "Their owners don't always minimize input costs and maximize sale revenue - it drives economists crazy!"
Molnar said there are three main ownership categories for horses in the state. The largest niche, about 90 percent, are classified as "economical" horse owners who spend about $8,705 a year per animal.
The "moderate level" of owners make up about 9.9 percent. Those owners typically spend $28,260 annually per horse.
The "high level" owners make up less than 1 percent of horse owners, but on average they spend $69,080 per horse annually. Most equines in this category are show horses and breeding stock.
The study proves horses play an important role in Alabama, economically and agriculturally, Molnar said. "Production agriculture is on a downturn, and horse people help keep land rural and in agricultural production. Horse farms and competition facilities are found in every Alabama county. Horse owners spend a lot of money on feed, hay, tack, trailers, trucks and insurance.
"Horses help keep the rural infrastructure, and they help support the local feed and seed companies and tractor dealers year-round. Horses also provide young people a connection with rural Alabama and agriculture - another important benefit to Alabama farmers."