(NaturalNews) Desperate times call for desperate measures, and no question the current drought spanning much of the nation's mid-section has left many a farmer desperate. For some cattle; however, things are pretty sweet at the moment.
That's because as feed becomes harder to get and more expensive, some farmers are turning to an odd dietary supplement: Candy.
Struggling with spiking corn prices (corn is a major ingredient in cattle feed) due to the drought's devastation on this year's corn crop, ranchers have found it increasingly expensive to feed cattle that aren't necessarily worth their weight, so to speak.
So it's in that environment that one rancher has come up with a rather bizarre alternative.
Farmer Joseph Watson, at Mayfield's United Livestock Commodities in Mayfield, Ky., has tweaked a recipe for success. "Just to be able to survive, we have to look for other sources of nutrition," he told CNN.
'Sweet' deal for rancher, candy distributors
Watson, who has 1,400 head of cattle, is no longer feeding them corn. Grain prices are just too high to keep it on hand. So earlier this year, he started buying second-hand candy.
"It has a higher ratio of fat than actually feeding straight corn," Watson said. "It's hard to believe it will work but we've already seen the results of it now."
Which begs the question - do veterinarians practice dentistry? But we digress.
Here's how Watson pulls this off. He mixes candy with an ethanol byproduct and a mineral nutrient. And thus far, he says, cows haven't shown any health problems from consuming so much candy. In fact, he says, his cows are gaining weight - like they should.
"This ration is balanced to have not too much fat in it," he said.
What's more, he's paying well below premium prices for his new sweet "feed." Watson says he gets his candy at discounted rates because it's no longer fit to sell to the public. Also, in buying the candy, he is helping the candy distributors too.
"Salvage is a problem for a lot of these companies and they're proud to have a place to go with it," he said.
Speaking of ethanol...
The drought's impact on corn prices is affecting more than just cattle ranchers. It's also affecting consumers, because as corn prices go up, so do prices for the products in which corn is an ingredient. In fact, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, the drought has caused corn prices to jump 60 percent since June, to more than $8 a bushel.
And one such product is corn-based ethanol, which - via federal mandate - is blended into the gasoline we burn.
Farm consortiums have asked the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily waive part of the mandate requiring the corn-based ethanol blend, because, they argue, doing so will make more corn available for feed and other commodities, thereby lowering prices for those items.
"The range of impact of an [Renewable Fuel Standard] waiver goes from zero to $1.30 per bushel for corn," Wally Tyner, an energy policy specialist at Purdue University, said of a new study indicating corn prices could fall under certain conditions if the waiver was issued.
The EPA is said to be examining the issue. Under its normal schedule, the agency has until October "to gather information on the extent of any economic harm done by the original Renewable Fuel Standard level and to decide if it will issue a waiver," said a report in the Southwest Farm Press, an industry publication. "For consumers, the decision could affect what they pay for fuel and food."
And of course, anything that would lower prices consumers pay for commodities is sweet.