DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ A ''hay hotline'' has been set up for farmers seeking fodder from as far west as Kansas to feed their cattle in the face of the grass-wilting drought, Ohio officials said Monday.

''We've been sending word out across the state and anywhere else that would listen that we need hay,'' said Marion E. Freeman, cooperative extension agent in Mercer County in west central Ohio.

Mercer County usually is Ohio's top-income agricultural county and is one of the centers of the state's dairy industry.

Freeman said he asked the Agriculture Department last week to handle calls from both farmers who badly need hay and those who may have some to sell.

''I told him we'd be willing to do it,'' said Alice Walters, spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department.

''We did this two years ago with the haylift (to the South). So we're not new at this,'' she said.

Two years ago, Mercer County sent 12 boxcars of hay to parched Southern farms, ''but they're in the same situation we are'' and farmers realize they can't expect much help from their Southern brethren, Freeman said.

Farmers have been lining up hay in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Kansas, ''but those supplies are drying up, too,'' he said.

Michael Broering, who has a 70-head dairy herd near Maria Stein, was on the phone most of the morning lining up hay. He said a friend in Pennsylvania had contacts who could provide 3,000 bales, about a five-month supply, for a reasonable $85 a ton. Some of the western hay is as high as $150 a ton, Broering said.

''I guess now is the time you call in all your friends,'' he said.

Broering said his first cutting of hay produced only 20 percent of normal and the second cutting this month probably will produce less. Two more weeks of little rain, and farmers will be forced to buy feed to cover their needs through next April, he said.

He is beginning to sell some of his registered Holstein cows.