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California Ranchers Responding to Extreme Drought

Prospective buyer Selerino Esparaza, right, examines cattle which was to be sold at auction at the 101 Livestock Market in Aromas, Calif. California's worsening drought is forcing many ranchers to sell their cattle and other livestock because their pastures are too dry to feed them and it's getting too expensive to buy hay and other supplemental feed. California only got a fraction of its normal rainfall last year, leaving reservoirs and groundwater levels at record lows and prompting many cities to cut water usage. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

California Ranchers Responding to Extreme Drought

In January, business at the 101 Livestock Market's cattle auction on California's Central Coast is usually slow. The busy season is normally in June or July, when ranchers have had time to fatten their animals for weeks on spring grasses.

This year, however, business is bustling, with packed pens of moaning cattle and cowboys standing on tip-toe to get a glance at their potential prizes.

Because of historically dry conditions, California's soil moisture — a key ingredient for the forage that cattle graze on — is low throughout the state. With feed costs high and weeks of dry weather in the forecast, ranchers are already selling off parts of their herds as normally green grazing pastures have turned brown.