TODAY   |  July 10, 2012

Midwest drought threatens cattle ranching

NBC's Janet Shamlian reports from Arkansas, where severe drought has turned pasture into "desert," threatening the future of the cattle ranching industry.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in arkansas . good morning.

>> reporter: natalie, good morning to you. at least half of the nation is experiencing some form of drought right now. this is where it's taking its biggest toll, ranches, farmlands, some of which haven't seen rain in three months. it's a hungry herd. in the wake of a one-two punch ranchers like this with unusually low rainfall and record breaking heat.

>> it's devastating, looks like the desert.

>> they haven't had ground this barren. she had to sell off 100 of her 250 cattle herd.

>> if no significant rain comes, i'll have to go out of business. i just don't have any grass. won't be able to afford the hay prices.

>> reporter: more than half the country is in a drought according to the latest government monitor, in arkansas it covers the entire state. farm equipment sits idle. there's nothing to cut and bale. in fact, the only real activity is at the sale barn packed with ranchers selling off cattle, a move experts say could raise beef prices. in a dozen years this pond has never gone dry until now. matt moved his herd to more fertile fields but he's running out of those.

>> the other option is just to quit and sell out totally. hopefully we'll get rain and this can quit in two or three weeks.

>> reporter: meteorologists say it would take four to six inches of rain to break the drought. there's nothing like that on the horizon, even in the long-term forecast. natalie.

>> a lot of people hurting. janet, thank you so much in arkansas .