Cattle ranchers struggling with hay costs during drought

Cattle ranchers struggling with hay costs during drought

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Drought conditions throughout the state of California are taking a toll on cattle ranchers who are struggling to keep their livestock up to weight. Most of the livestock in California are free-range cattle, which means they are fed predominantly by grazing in pastures. 

The lack of rain means less grass for the cattle to eat and higher costs for ranchers who are shelling out a lot of extra money for supplemental hay. 

Jack Lavers, a sixth-generation cattle rancher in Kern county, said Thursday that he's had to pay almost $100 more per ton of hay for his livestock than last year.

"We feed on our ranch about 75 to 100 ton of hay a year. We've already surpassed that," said Lavers. "This year, we're going to feed an extra 150 ton of hay."

That comes to more than $35,000 dollars extra this year, for hay alone. 

According to Lavers, who is also a director of the Kern County Cattlemans Association, many ranchers have had to borrow money or seek assistance from the USDA and the Farm Service Agency. 

New emergency drought legislation that was announced Wednesday won't affect cattle ranchers with their water usage, but it could provide relief to farmers, enabling them to plant more hay and lowering the cost.