Rush, a farmer and rancher in the eastern city of Portales, said there's been no rain in more than four months. He said he and his colleagues are running out of options and have to sell their herds because there's no grass to feed them. The existing feed supply has gotten expensive because of high demand.
"I have to tell you, as a farmer and rancher, it keeps you up at night," Rush said. "Worrying about what to do and when the next rain will come."
Mike White, a farmer in the Roswell area and president of the state Farm and Livestock Bureau, said the drought is affecting his hay operation. While he usually gets about 2½ tons of hay per acre at the end of April, this year he only produced 1½ half tons.
"It's not a good situation at all, really. The last rain we had was in October," he said.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a request from New Mexico U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall to grant emergency grazing rights on federal lands to ranchers in Curry County, which borders Texas. The senators are pushing for approval in more counties.
The Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency is also assisting ranchers, giving them about $5 million since March to buy feed, said Andrew Ortiz, a program specialist with the FSA.
The FSA expects to pay New Mexico ranchers up to $20 million for feed this year, he said. But there's only so much the government can do.
"They'd rather have the rain than the payments," Ortiz said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.