Drought forces farmers to sell livestock

This summer, Mother Nature is milking farmers for all they’re worth. Many who own livestock are being forced to sell their herds because of the drought.

“The drought's been pretty bad here, so no pastures,” said Topeka Livestock Auctioneer Dallas Martin. “People have been running out of feed.”

The little food that is available for livestock keeps getting more expensive as the dry weather continues.

On Tuesday, brown barrels of hay were being auctioned off for $100; they normally go for $35.

“A lot of spring feeder cattle that got bought early this year when we had lots of grass in March and April, they've come back through the sale because we've run out of grass and feed and hay's too expensive to buy,” said Topeka Livestock Auctioneer Tye Casey.

In the past month, the Topeka Livestock Auction has seen about a 30 percent increase in the number of animals up for sale. With little rainfall in June, many local farmers panicked and decided to sell off the herds they couldn’t afford to feed.

“It's going to hurt, it will hurt a lot,” Casey said. “There's been quite a few Amish folk around who have the 10 and 15 dairy cow herds that they just can't afford to feed to keep milking.”

The auctioneers say a similar spike during the drought of 1988, but those farmers recovered over the next two years. They’re hoping the same will happen after the 2012 drought.

“Most farmers will get through this drought.” Martin said. “Yeah, it's going to be tough, it's going to be hard on a lot of farmers. But he's a resilient farmer. He'll get through it.”

Until the dry spell stops, many farmers will be at the Topeka Livestock Auction every Tuesday – one of the few agriculture-based businesses that is booming during the drought.

“Everything is sold on a commission basis, a per head deal,” Casey said. “And it makes us, it makes a better sale for us when there's a lot more cattle.”

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