Local News

Farm Production Slows as Temps Rise

Posted August 10, 2007 8:03 p.m. EDT
Updated August 11, 2007 11:25 a.m. EDT

— Down at Manco Dairy Farm near Pittsboro, this week's triple-digit temperatures have tongues wagging.

Dairy cattle are down on their luck.

"It's really taking its toll – the loss of production and overall stress," said Lynn Mann who works at the farm.

The extreme heat has reduced milk production by 30 percent, or a loss of about $300 a day, Mann said.

"Where we usually see 8 to 9 gallons, we're closer to 5," Mann said.

Since it is a global market, experts say it is unlikely shoppers will see any immediate price increase on store shelves because of the local production problems.

"We're in a national-global market. They'll bring food in from where there is food," said Sam Gross, an agricultural extension agent in Chatham County. "Where it will be felt is when farmers can't pay their taxes or have enough money to raise their families."

In addition, dry weather and high temperatures might also have a lasting impact on feed for livestock.

"Depending on the severity of the weather, we may not have enough hay to carry us through the winter," Gross said.

The temperatures have already taken their toll, but with some quick relief, farmers say they will bounce back.

"We haven't lost any (cattle), but it's just a matter of time if this continues," Mann said. "They can't stand but so much."

The same goes for the hens down the road, where farmer Lin Andrew already lost some to the heat.

"I'm kind of on pins and needles," Andrew said. "I come up here every few minutes to check. I've got a monitoring system on my computer at home."

Most hen houses are cooled with fans and chill pads. The high-power usage, though, contributed to several power outages this week.

One Chatham farmer lost 5,000 chickens Thursday when an outage caused the hen house to get too hot.

Hot temperatures are also affecting beef cattle, Gross said.

"They don't want to eat. They're losing weight instead of maintaining their weight or gaining weight," Gross said.