OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – The record high temperatures and lack of rain are two factors leading to Oklahoma cattle ranchers struggling to find hay and forcing them into a tough dilemma.

“It’s essential. It’s life or death with this livestock,“ said Donna Carpenter, a rancher from Shawnee. “Oklahoma pastures are burned up. Hay fields are burned up… The entire state is in trouble in this whole situation.”

Mike Trammel, an agricultural educator at OSU’s Pottawatomie County Extension says he’s gotten multiple reports saying hay production is down.

“So, we’ll see a lack of forage for our livestock,” said Trammel. “That forage is necessary to feed those livestock through wintertime. And right now, with a lot of the states in the Midwest and the South experiencing drought, this is a real issue.”

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It’s an issue that could potentially lead to even bigger ones.

Trammel says if farmers can’t afford to feed their animals, they’d likely have to sell them.

“They would have to make the decision whether they have enough forages that they can produce themselves on their ranch or farm,” said Trammel. “If not, they will have to look to buy those forages, and when everybody else is short of supply too, that’s going to be hard to do.”

Carpenter told KFOR on top of the already increased price of hay, the shipping cost from one seller in Claremore would cost $6 per mile.

The State Department of Agriculture sent KFOR the following statement about the problem:

“As the excessive heat and drought situation continues to intensify, our agency and state leaders understand the challenges the weather is presenting to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers. Discussions are ongoing with producers in all sectors of agriculture production in the state about the needs that exist and possible solutions. Hay and water availability for livestock, the impact to crops, and continued high prices of inputs like fuel and fertilizer make this drought exceptionally difficult. We will continue to work with producers and our partners in the state and federal government to mitigate the impact to farmers and ranchers. For now, we encourage all producers to stay in contact with their USDA Farm Service Agency county office to stay informed about programs that can help them.”

JanLee Rowlett | Deputy Commissioner, Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry

Trammel says it is too early to tell right now if the hay shortage will have an impact on beef prices at the grocery store.