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Cattle Farmers Facing 'Hay Emergency'

Posted August 28, 2007

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— Using soybean hay and dried-up cornstalks could help ease a feed deficit for livestock farmers caused by dry temperatures and a lack of rain, North Carolina's commissioner of agriculture said Tuesday.

Without the effort, it could mean as much as 30 percent of the state's $250 million cattle industry going under, Commissioner Steve Troxler said.

"This is an emergency," Troxler said. "With the lack of hay in North Carolina, we've got to act very quickly to help save as many cattle operations in North Carolina as we possibly can."

Reports from farmers across the state indicate that as many as 800,000 round bales of hay will be needed through the winter to feed an estimated 860,000 livestock.

A drought in portions of the state in 2002 caused similar problems, but the magnitude of the problem this year is much greater, Troxler said, because it affects the entire state.

"We're talking a demand that's 80 times greater," Troxler said. "It's a pretty daunting task to try to ship in that much hay," so we've got to be creative in helping farmers cope."

The lack of feed has some farmers already selling part of their livestock herd early, including Ronnie Hammond, who said his hay supply to feed his 100 cattle is down 20 percent of what it should be.
That has forced him to take his animals to market earlier and settle for a 10 percent loss of profits.

How the hay shortage could affect consumers isn't clear. Troxler said it was too soon to tell.

But North Carolina State University economist Mike Walden said it would not likely have an impact on larger municipalities in the state. Those that would be affected would likely be smaller rural areas.

Troxler hopes drought-stricken corn and soybean farmers in the eastern part of the state will be able to help hurting cattle farmers by bailing corn stubble and soybeans for hay.

In return, the hay gives growers a marketable option for their damaged crops while providing livestock farmers with additional feed options, Troxler said.

But there are some problems with the idea. For example, cornstalks don't have the nutritional value that hay has, which would mean supplementing the feed with protein.

Another issue is that farmers who have the dried up crops do not necessarily have the equipment to bale them.

Those who can help, however, can use the agriculture department's Hay Alert service by calling 866-506-6222 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or the Hay Alert Web site, which allows farmers to place free listings seeking or selling hay.

Last Week, Gov. Mike Easley asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare 85 counties disaster areas because of drought-related crop losses.
The state Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Farm Service Agency are working on a statewide survey to determine which counties to include in the federal disaster request.

If the request is approved, low-interest emergency disaster loans will be available to farmers who cannot get credit elsewhere.

“Early indications are that more than 90 counties may meet the criteria for federal disaster assistance,” Easley said. “Our farmers need our help, and since we cannot make it rain, we will do everything we can to provide them some financial assistance.”


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  • NCSULandscaper Aug 29, 2007

    even if you dont need the hay, you have to keep cutting and baling it for the pasture to keep growing

  • doodad Aug 29, 2007

    RAPTOR, those bales were all used up earlier in the spring.

  • RAPTOR Aug 28, 2007

    Why do we see so many round bales "rotting" on the edge of fields from previous years?Looks that these could be stored out of the elements and used.

  • Kelbad1 Aug 28, 2007

    Our family recently took a trip up to Michigan to visit with my husband's family. Through Ohio and Michigan I took notice of all the silo's on the farms. Nearly all farmer's up further from us have and use silos for food storage for their cattle. They grow corn on part of their land which is stored (all of it stalk and all) throughout the year so when there is drought or other weather conditions they can still feed their cattle, with no worries really about hay. Here, in NC where I am a proud native, you never see farms with silos much. Perhaps this could be a great option for farmers to use. You see so many fields of just cattle. Huge fields sometimes, small herds of cattle that they move from field to field (I understand that reason). But, why not take a few acres to grow some "feed" corn, have a silo, store the feed corn and not have to worry so much about drought and what not? I'm not a farmer. Just makes a little sense to me. Why don't farmers do that here? Just a thought.

  • k9sandQtrs Aug 28, 2007

    A lot of horse owners are going to use bagged hay cubes as an alternative.

  • Adelinthe Aug 28, 2007

    There's corn dry on the stalks nearly everywhere in NC. It can be used for fodder, and although the cattle would like something fresh, it will do.

    Someone just needs to get out there and make arrangements to gather it up.

    Praying for beasties everywhere.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • NCSULandscaper Aug 28, 2007

    even letting them eat on kudzu is a problem with the distribution of seeds in the manure

  • nisa-pizza Aug 28, 2007

    Planting isn't even necessary and I realize planting it may be prohibitive in some counties however if you drive on US70 to and from Seymour Johnson AFB, I440, I40 anywhere south of New York and throughout the southeast you can find it in any field. All they need do is use it. It's being widely used and kept under control by goat farmers in Chattanooga right now. It has been used as cattle feed in this country in the 1930's before it ran rampant.

    They've been trying to irradicate kudzu for decades as everyone knows using pesticides when it can be collected and used for animal fodder. There are people out there who harvest it for various uses. So someone growing it as a crop is hardly feasible at this point in time. But it is being grown by Angora goat herders to feed their herds right now. So it can be done and maintained by the herd but it's not needed as a crop now since it flourishes everywhere. Farmers with kudzu on their property might want to think about.

  • doodad Aug 28, 2007

    For some producers, it may be more feasable to source a farmer with cornstalks/soybean stubble on large enough acreages near a water source, temporarily fence the fields and move the cows to the feed source. Brood cows and stockers in the midwest and Rocky Mountain states are hauled or driven to cornstalks for winter feeding.

  • mrtwinturbo Aug 28, 2007

    nisa-pizza...many counties prohibit the planting of such plants as they will take over and kill many existing plants and trees, they then die off in the fall and become major fire hazards. I was stationed at SJAFB for many years and was told we could not transplant that anywhere on base. After seeing what it can do I agreed. I looks nice from afar, but can strangle a forest to death