The Nebraska state director of the U.S. Farm Service Agency says drought conditions have substantially reduced the amount of forage available for livestock.
Dan Steinkruger said conditions appeared to improve at the beginning of the year, but many parts of central, western and southwest Nebraska are still much drier than normal.
Steinkruger says 54 Nebraska counties are now approved for emergency haying and grazing on land that's enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program.
Nebraska Cattlemen spokesman Pete McClymont says producers managed to endure last year's drought because they began the season with good soil moisture. This year, McClymont says producers are in "crisis management" mode because the soil is drier, and many have had to reduce the size of their herds.