Western cattle ranchers may be hit harder by the drought in the nation's heartland than farmers in the Corn Belt.

Most corn farmers have subsidized crop insurance, a program so generous that farmers who lose their entire crop could wind up making more money than if there were no drought at all.

Cattle ranchers across the country, however, are seeing the price of corn, hay and other feed skyrocket as a result of diminished yield, forcing many of them to sell their animals now rather than later. Corn has gone from about $5.50 to $8/bu., and hay and other grains are following.

The drought "has a tremendous ripple effect," says Jim Warren, owner of 101 Livestock Market, a cattle auction in Aromas, CA.

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