LEWISVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas livestock owners are watching dry conditions make forage scarce on their pastures, and the state hay supply is showing signs of shortages, extension agents for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture said.
Rain fell over much of the state Tuesday, but since then the state has had high temperatures and only slight chances of rain - conditions that forecasters say will prevail for another week.
But cool and damp weather early in the growing season is what's contributing to the hay shortage.
"Talking to producers lately has revealed most had about 75 percent of normal yield their first hay cutting, and the second cutting is less than half of normal yields if they were even able to cut a second harvest," said Joe Vestal, Lafayette County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. "Some producers were evaluating how to feed their cattle due to pastures and hay fields d rying up rapidly."
Lafayette County is among counties in southern Arkansas with an extreme drought classification, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor map.
In 2010, 1.5 million acres of hay were harvested in Arkansas. Some producers use the hay to feed their own cattle, while some sell the hay to cattle owners in Arkansas and other states.
The signs are in place for a hay shortage in central Arkansas as well.
"There was very little, if any hay left over from last year," said Brian Haller, White County extension staff chair for the division. "Everybody fed what reserves they had because of last year's drought and the long, hard winter."
Little hay was left over from last year's harvest, and growers may not be able to rebuild a surplus this year.
"The biggest thing about this year will be producing what the livestock producers need and trying to produce extra for reserves," Haller said. "Unless we have an exceptional hay year, hay will be a t a premium."
Extension agents say the shortage is already affecting cattle producers in northwest Arkansas, the region with the greatest cattle production in the state.
Robert Seay, Benton County extension staff for the division, said growers are finding that hay turns brown after harvest, which prevents a second harvest.
"The lack of re-growth in hayfields is also a carbon copy of what producers are seeing in pastures," Seay said. "If we don't get rain soon and if we get more of this kind of weather, we could be hurting seriously in July."
A silver lining for producers is that they can sell cattle if they don't have the ability to feed them.
"Cattle prices are high and producers appear to be selling anything that is a problem to take advantage of the prices," said Don Hubbell, director of the Livestock and Forestry Station in Batesville. "Western producers are culling hard and pocketing cash rather than buying expensive feed."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.