Johnston — The drought is forcing North Carolina farmers to sell off their cattle.
The livestock industry is worth millions of dollars to the state economy. However, with grass dying and hay wilting in the fields, farmers cannot afford to feed their herds.
“It's so dry, the grass won't grow,” said Sampson County farmer Oliver Faircloth.
The drought has forced farmers to bring their cattle to market earlier than usual and settle for a cut in profits.
“A lot of folks have to sell their calves because they don't have the hay or the grass, but the prices are holding right good considering how many they're putting on the market," said Wake County farmer Coy Duke.
“If you have five cows and you get $300 to $500 for a calf, that beats any beans, corn or anything you can plant,” Faircloth said.
It has been a busy summer for Powell Livestock Co. in Johnston County.
“They don't have grass. They don't have water. They have to let them go for whatever they can bring," said Elma Baker, with Powell Livestock.
Baker said there is concern that with so many cattle being auctioned early, business could really slow come spring.
“A lot of the cows being sold are the breeding cows, the momma cows,” said Baker. “In the foreseeable future, it makes for a possible shortage.”
Many of the farmers with whom WRAL talked said they are going to try to hold on to their remaining cattle and get through this year's dry spell.
"It will stock back up whenever rain comes, whenever that is," Faircloth said.
Officials said the price of hay has more than doubled and without any rain, it could be a tough spring for farmers.