Drought, Heat Force Oklahoma Ranchers To Take Drastic Action

Wednesday, July 27th 2011, 5:16 pm
By: News On 6

Craig Day, News On 6

COLLINSVILLE, Oklahoma -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a disaster declaration for 74 Oklahoma counties to help farmers and ranchers hit hard by drought and wildfires. 

Many of them are experiencing dramatic hay shortages, leaving livestock underfed and prompting many to sell off their herds.

In 40 years of baling hay, Louis Keith has never seen conditions as bad as they are right now in Oklahoma.

With very little moisture, Keith is baling what he can off a field north of Collinsville, but it's only half of its normal crop.  Many Oklahoma hay producers aren't even this fortunate.

"People are calling me. I probably could have sold four or five thousand round bales in one week there if I would have had them," according to Keith.

With hay supplies dwindling, many Oklahoma ranchers are selling off their herds.

This week, the Tulsa Stockyards moved 3,385 head of cattle.  That's up more than 200 in just one week, and about 1,500 more than this time last year.

So serious, Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order giving trucks bringing hay to Oklahoma an extra foot of width, which enables them to haul double the number of round bales.

The order also temporarily suspends oversized vehicle permit requirements.  The state has an online hay directory, but the list is getting shorter as the drought continues. 

Visit the online hay directory.

Keith says its a dire situation, one that's only getting worse.  "

Pray that we get some moisture and if we're able to get a second cutting good, but if we don't, it's going to be a bad deal going through the winter," he said.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture also has a hay hotline people can call. It's 1-800-580-6543.