Record Texas drought raising livestock feed cost

Costs may begin to affect retail prices by end of year

A record drought in Texas is affecting an already small hay crop, causing prices of varieties like alfalfa to jump 51% (to $186 per short ton) in the last year, according to government data. This, in turn, is causing livestock feed prices to rise for dairy farmers and beef producers from California to Maryland.

Drought problems are compounding a hay shortage caused by farmers using land for more profitable crops like corn, say farmers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, retail meat prices may increase in response to the rise in feed costs by as much as 7% by the end of 2011, while dairy products jump 6% — more than the food inflation rate of 3% to 4%.