Ranchers are rushing to sell off some of their cattle as the worst drought in nearly 25 years dries up pastures, thins hay supplies and sends feed costs skyrocketing.
The more desperate in the Midwest are hauling water into areas where creeks have run dry and are scrambling to secure scarce and high-priced hay to keep their cattle fed and watered.
But some are giving up, or are about to.
The drought in the Midwest follows another one last year in the Southern Plains. The 2011 drought was centered in the heart of cattle country in Texas and helped to shrink the U.S. herd to about 91 million head, to the smallest in about 60 years, while sending beef prices to record highs.
A rush by ranchers to sell cattle, and in some cases hogs, could force consumers to dig deeper into their wallets next year as smaller herds can lead to higher beef and pork prices.
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