GRAPEVINE (CBSDFW.COM) – If the drought wasn’t enough for farmers and ranchers to struggle with, now they are facing a growing threat.  Thieves are targeting pastures and barns for suddenly valuable hay bales.

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It’s the nature of ranchers like James Lockridge to give you something if you need it badly enough. “Come up and ask us. Surely we can work something out.”

Mitch Waters runs a feed store that’s such a fixture, people drive 50 miles to shop there.  “Got out of school in 77 and been here ever since.”

But now both men, are putting their livelihoods behind locks.  Signs are posted, keep out. They know where all the area security cameras are, and are intent on protecting something that’s never been worth as much as it is right now.  “Our convenient hay barn here, for just the drive up customers.”

Yes, hay, is the new target for thieves.  Round bales that used to sell for $20 are now topping $175.

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The night watchman at Master Made Feed in Grapevine has scared off a half dozen prowlers already, and Lockridge says he’s lost more than 150 bales from a Grand Prairie Field – a $26,000 loss.

“If you want to steal a bale of hay. We’re going to press charges on you. You get caught stealing hay. You’re going to jail. We’re just not even going to play around no more,” says Lockridge.

It’s so valuable and becoming so rare that even the hay falling off the bales on the back of a truck is being picked up, put in bags and sold.

“It’s going to be a secured product because people are going to be in need of it and who knows what’s going to take place this winter,” says Winters.

With winter around the corner Lockridge is worried about having enough to feed his own animals, and is hurrying to get everything secured in lots now locked or guarded by round the clock security.

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Hay is becoming so rare that Master Made Feed is paying people a finders fee if they can hook them up with willing sellers.