Drought forcing some Minnesota cattle farmers into early retirement

A herd of cattle grazes on a farm in Goodhue County, Minnesota. (FOX 9)

As drought intensifies in Minnesota, cattle farmers are being left to make the tough choice: sell off the herd or overpay for feed.

At Brenny Farms in southern Minnesota, the hay barn should be full right now as the supply usually isn’t dipped into until the winter. However, this year with the drought conditions, the cows will likely be getting this hay next month.

"We’re getting to that point where we just don’t have a whole lot of options here," said cattle farmer Katie Brenny.

One look at her fields and Brenny knows this isn’t nearly enough grass to feed her herd.

"On a typical year, if the [cattle] hadn’t been here yet, the grass would be up to my waist and now as you can see, I can see bare spots," she explained.

Her cows just came off a patch that normally would have fed them for a week. Instead, they ate it up in two days. Supplementing with hay isn’t much of an option either as it’s hard to find right now and where it is available, it’s extremely expensive.

"We’re just at a point where I can’t take out another loan from the bank to pay for feed when I don’t know if it's going to rain tomorrow or not," said Brenny.

The Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association says many are being forced into early retirement, selling the entire herd. Brenny says they’ll be sending half of theirs to auction in the coming weeks.

"It just comes down to keep the cows and buy expensive hay or try and sell the cows and get some sort of money and try and keep what we can keep as hopefully it will rain at some point," she said.

She just hopes they’ll still be here when the rain does come.

"It’s just a huge challenge because will there be any farmers left?" asked Brenny.