MURFREESBORO, Tenn.- A nationwide hay shortage is forcing Tennessee ranchers and farmers to pay more to feed their livestock.
The extreme heat and drought conditions that have gripped much of the country, have dried up pastures, resulting in less hay to go around.
"This year it got dry so early," said Executive Vice President of the Tennessee Cattlemen's Association Charles Hord, "even the first crop of hay farmers cut was half or a third of what they normally have."
This year farmers will be paying up to $100 for a bale of hay instead of $40-50 last year. Hord also said the quality won't be as good. It is a situation he hasn't dealt with in five years.
"It's going to be expensive. Farmers are going to have to make some tough choices."
Some may opt to sell livestock to help cover the costs of hay, and to reduce the number of mouths they have to feed. Others may just pay the price to bring in hay.
"Cattle prices have been high, but because of the drought so many are entering the market and now prices are coming down," said Hord, "It's a tough situation for anyone in the livestock industry."
In previous years Tennessee farmers have traveled to other parts of the country to purchase hay, but this year, drought conditions were so widespread, even that will be challenging. Some areas like Texas and Oklahoma are still recovering from the extreme drought last year.
"Normally, right now you would be storing away hay for the winter," said Hord, "but now since our stock is limited you have to go ahead and use it. It could be a long winter."