Hay Shortage Could Cripple Peach State

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Georgia cattlemen have been hit hard after a massive drought, an invasion of army worms, and now a shortage of hay. All are taking a toll on the 20th largest beef-cattle industry in the United States.

"You will see people that will down size their herd to get their cattle numbers in line with the hay that's available and the grass that they can grow," says local Farmer Ellis Black.

With a good chance of many heifers heading to new homes throughout the country, this could mean bad news for local feed store owners.

"We sell a lot of cattle products during the winter and if the cattlemen, if he has to sell his livestock, then we have no customers to sell feed to and just, you know, hurts our business," said feed store owner Bubba Burnett.

Georgia's Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development estimates a reduction in cattle sales and lost farm wages could result in a $570 million loss to the industry.

For Black, he's relying on his peanut crop to produce much needed hay. "Quite often, the peanut hay doesn't get bailed, but this year, every bit of peanut hay that people have the opportunity to bail, they will bail. The quality of that is highly dependent upon the weather," he says.

If his peanut crop doesn't produce enough hay, the local farmer might just replace some ear tags with price tags.

The beef cattle industry is Georgia’s fourth leading agriculture commodity with a value of nearly $475 million.