Drought limits hay, grazing

Published 2:14 am Thursday, November 17, 2016


Chuck Simon paints a grim picture for local farmers dealing with the effects of drought, but it’s not as bad as what North Alabama farmers are facing.

Simon, who works with Auburn University’s Extension Service,said that local farmers who rely on winter grazing to feed their livestock are having trouble because the plants aren’t growing. Winter forage often includes barley, oats, rye and wheat.

Simon said that most farmers were able to get in their hay cuttings, but there isn’t really a surplus.

“Hay is in short supply,” he said. “We have people from North Alabama calling and looking for hay.

“The farmers I know got one more cutting of hay, but if they were hoping to get another one after the drought set in, they probably didn’t get it,” he said. “I, personally, haven’t heard of any of them saying they don’t have enough hay.”

Since local farmers most likely have only enough for their livestock, there’s not enough hay to share with those in the northern part of the state.

Simon said some farmers depend on winter grazing.

“Those who do depend on winter grazing, may be in a pickle,” he said.

Simon said the drought is bad, but could be worse.

“The only blessing is that it happened at the end of the year,” he said.

Simon said some farmers may have to look at selling some of their cattle inventory.

Opp farmers Michael and Anita Ellis say they have had to feed their cattle hay earlier than normal.

“A couple (cattle) have had eye sores, as well,” he said.

Another issue they are experiencing is that the water source in one of their pastures is very low.

“Plans are to dig the watering hole deeper so the adjoining pond will flow into the watering hole better,” he said.

Simon said that local deer hunters are seeing problems from the drought as well.

“Many hunters planted food plots,” he said. “And they are not doing anything. A lot of them planted when there was still moisture in the soil, but then it turned dry.”

Simon said peanut farmers are having a hard time digging because the ground is hard.

Cotton farmers are picking, he said.

“It is giving them extra days,” he said. “But it’s so dusty. I went to Dothan the other day and I thought it was a controlled burn and it was just dusty.”

Simon said he got a little bit of rain at his home near Straughn on Tuesday.

“I hope we are going to get rain,” he said.

Almost all of Alabama’s counties are in drought status.