By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As drought tightens its grip, crop loss is only the first stage.

As Alex DeMetrick reports, it’s what’s coming in the months ahead that will hit farmers and consumers hardest.

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Two weeks ago on the Eastern Shore, heat and drought had already finished off much of the corn crop.

“It’s a big concern for us farmers, but I’m also really concerned for our end user,” said Chip Councell.

Meet that end user.

Livestock from dairy cows to chickens are fed corn. Feed is already showing signs of shortage in Maryland and across much of the south and Midwest.

“I’m really curious myself whether there’s enough feed out there to feed livestock throughout the country,” said dairyman Scott Youse.

A cow can eat up to 100 pounds. It averages out to 60,000 pounds a day. On farms, what can’t afford to be fed usually gets sold.

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“Dairy farmers are already looking at cows that aren’t profitable and many of them can’t afford to feed them,” Youse said.

Unless there’s water.

Irrigation has saved enough of Youse’s crop to feed his cows. But there’s not enough water to save all of it.

“You got one, two, three kernels on there,” he said.

Scarcity and expense leave dairies looking for ways to stretch resources. When Scott Youse takes the silage and grain used for feed, in some loads he works in a byproduct from local canneries–the leaves and husks of sweetcorn.

“A lot of dairymen use it and put it in their rations to stretch their feed out,” said Youse.

And if there’s not enough to stretch, look for herds to be thinned–meaning higher prices down the road for meat and dairy products.

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According to farmers, in Maryland, feed costs for livestock operations have already increased by 30 percent.