Tifton -- A herd of cattle stands in a dry south Georgia field. This field in Tifton, like many throughout southwest Georgia has been deeply effected by a lingering drought
An estimated 65 percent of Georgia's pasture land is in poor to very poor condition. The current drought comes on the heals of drier than normal weather last year, and that has severely affected hay supplies. This has many cattle producers concerned.
"A lot of producers did not make a lot of hay last year because of the drought. So they were starting to run out of their supply of hay around mid-April. At that time producers started looking for other sources of feed. Since we had such a bad year last year, there was not a lot of hay around. A lot of producers that could not find feed had to start culling there herd back three or four weeks ago," says Dr. Johnny Rossi, an extension animal sceientist and assistant professor at the University of Goergia.
The shortage of hay mixed with the lack of rain has forced area producers to pay high prices for hay and cattle feed. Some have even haul hay in from Macon and farther north.
"Normally at this time of year, we would expect prices to be around $80 or $90 a ton, at this time of year they're up to about $120 or $140 a ton. And that is of unknown quality. So many producers are paying too much for poor quality feed," says Rossi.
While cattle prices are currently trading high, the drought conditions and price of feed will certainly cut into the farmer's bottom line.
And with food supplies low, south Georgia cattle producers are faced with many challenges beyond the current drought. Rossi explains, "there is a lot of concern in the area. One of the concerns we have is getting the cows through next winter. Obviously there is be a shortage of feed for this upcoming winter. And many producers are worried about getting their cows through the next year."
With little or no rain in sight, Dr. Rossi believes that producers may have to take drastic measures if the drought continues. Fortunately, not all is lost.
"Eventually many producers are going to reduce their herds greatly or completely sell all of their cattle. Fortunately cattle prices are fairly high right now. Most calves are weened around 500 pounds here in Georgia and they're being sold between $1.10 to a $1.20 per pound."
In the words of one agircultural expert, we just need to pray for for rain.