Arkansas beef producers are starting to sell cows as more of the state – nearly 40% – is under extreme drought conditions as reported by the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map.

“I don’t know what the cows are eating,” says Darrin Henderson, Madison County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The pastures he’s seeing are nothing more than dirt and stubble.

“With these 100º days and the wind blowing, it’ll take massive amounts of rain to really turn things around – maybe 5-6” over two weeks,” he says. “Cattle producers also worry about how much of the forage is already dead, not dormant, and won’t come back. They’re in a tough spot.”

Many of the ranchers Henderson’s spoken with have given up trying to find hay and are resigning themselves to having to sell their cows.

With so many producers in the same boat, the new cattle at sales, “could drive the price down,” he says. “If you want to try to buy them back in the spring, you may not be able to afford them.”

All of Madison County, in the state’s northwestern corner, is rated “severe,” the middle step the monitor’s drought ratings. Arkansas is so dry that the fire danger remains extreme in all 75 counties and burn bans have been enacted in 72 counties. Only Little River, Calhoun and Desha counties are without one.

Check out a new Extension fact sheet, “Be Aware and Prepare: Wildfires in Arkansas,” a map of counties with burn bans, or call your county sheriff’s department for burn-ban information in your county.