Farmer says ongoing drought may put some out of business

Cattle on Mike Neuman's farm near Crocker look for shade late Thursday afternoon. Neuman said the drought has decimated hay production, thus driving up the price for remaining hay feed for the animals. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

A longtime farmer on Thursday said the ongoing drought has made it significantly more expensive and difficult to feed livestock.

Mike Neuman has raised cattle on his farm near Crocker for 27 years. He said this year has been so dry he was only able to produce 368 bales of hay for his livestock. In a normal year, he said he can provide nearly 1,400. Neuman said he can supplement his cows' diet with liquid protein mixes, but they still need roughage.

"Thank God we've got leaves on the trees for them to eat," he said.

New drought data released on Thursday show a quarter of the state is now under extreme or exceptional drought conditions, up from 19 percent of the state last week. Neuman said this drought reminds him of the 2012 drought, but that time he was able to get aid from the USDA. So far, he said Pulaski County isn't considered hard-hit enough to warrant extra help. Pulaski County was not one of the areas named by Gov. Mike Parson in his July 18 drought alert declaration.

Neuman said low hay production means what hay remains on the market has become significantly more expensive. He said hay bales that normally cost between $25 and $35 now set farmers back $75 or more. He said young farmers in particular are in no financial position to pay that kind of money. He said he saw many farmers quit agriculture following the 2012 drought and he fears more could exit the business after this year.

"A young person starting out farming has a tough way to go," he said. "They borrow money on stuff, and then they got to sell the cattle at a loss because the market's flooded."

Neuman said he will be able to get through the drought, but he will have to take several steps to bring in more money. He's considering planting rye grass and selling the calves he's expecting in the fall. Neuman said lean calves fetch good prices, but they don't bring the kind of volume money a normal herd does.

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