Some South Georgia cattle producers are selling their herds, because they can't afford to feed them. Cows are just not made to handle 100º+ temperatures day after day.
But they say the drought is even worse, because the grass in their pastures is just not growing, so some are coming up with imaginative ways to feed their herds.
Cattle Producer Buck Aultman says "There will be a lot of people wondering what we're doing throwing watermelons to cows, when they see this."
But Aultman says cows love watermelons, so the rejects from his melon crop he gives to his herd to keep them as happy as possible. The last month of heat and drought has really taken a toll on cows. "It's been pretty bad."
This pasture should be ready to cut for hay, as well as feeding all these cows. But the drought has the grass so short, it can't even support the cows. "We're feeding. What little bit of hay we have. We don't have a lot," Aultman said.
Aultman says with hay already in very short supply, and cow feed costs skyrocketing, sold off about 30 heifers. "I carried them to the market and sold them."
Just because of the cost of feeding them. "I just can't afford to feed them right now."
Many other South Georgia cattle producers are also selling their cows, and that could affect the price you pay for beef at the supermarket soon.
Tift County Extension Coordinator Brian Tankersley said, "When take home that trickling down effect of losing these brood cows in numbers, then eventually supply and demand works. You are going to have a high demand for the beef supply you have."
To escape the heat, Aultman's cows have stayed in the shade of the woods, not grazing. "They're just not going to gain near as much weight. They are not going to have their weight potential when it comes calving season this fall."
And Aultman wonders if that could also lead to smaller calves these cows produce, which could make this drought have an even longer lasting impact on Georgia's livestock industry.
As Aultman feeds his cows hay now, he can't store any for the winter. And he has to wonder what he will feed them then. So those watermelon treats could be important as livestock producers struggle to keep their cows healthy in this extreme heat and drought.
Georgia's beef cattle industry has a two point one billion dollar impact. There are 16,000 beef producers in Georgia, with more than one million cattle.
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