PORTALES, N.M. (AP) - Drought conditions across eastern New Mexico are making this a difficult year for farmers and ranchers. Alfalfa crops are down and there's not as much wheat. Cattle growers say it's costing more to move herds to better grazing areas because of the widespread drought.

"Just about any place in agriculture you can talk about, it's critical," said farmer Gene Massey in an interview with the Portales News-Tribune.

Wesley Grau farms and raises registered Charolais breeding cattle in northern Curry County. He said the drought is costing him an extra $10,000 to $20,000 a month, most of it for feed.

Moving livestock to better grazing areas means higher fuel costs. Cattle growers are also picking up extra costs from pumping water for livestock tanks because grasses don't contain enough moisture.

Massey said his dry land wheat produced 5-6 bushels an acre in fields that grew wheat last year, and 12 bushels an acre in fields that were fallow and able to build up soil moisture last year. In 2010, his fields produced 20 bushels an acre.

Fifteen bushels an acre is the Roosevelt County average, Massey said.

Although this year is dry, Massey said, 2009 was worse.

Floyd farmer Allen Deen said he hasn't been able to plant dry land crops because of the lack of moisture.

"We got some pretty good moisture, but the winds and the heat have taken it all back out," Deen said.

With the low humidity, he said, evaporation takes 3/4 inch to an inch of moisture out of the soil every day.

In addition, Deen said he cuts alfalfa for people who have seen such a drop in their water table that they can't keep the fields wet, even with sprinklers, due to the hot, dry wind.

Alfalfa yields are a quarter of what they were last year, he said. The low supply tends to lead to high feed prices for dairies.


Information from: Portales News-Tribune, http://www.pntonline.com< /P>

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.