Drought Spreads, Worsens Across State
Elmore County’s Scott Poague feeds pellets to a cattle herd on his farm Nov. 7. Poague, who farms with his father, Terry, said the creek where his cattle usually drink has dried up, but they can move the cattle to a field with a pond that still has water.
Elmore County cattle farmer Scott Poague said August was the last time his farm received measurable rain.
“The creek on our property — the main water source for our cows — dried up well over a month ago,” Poague said. “We do have another field with a pond that still has water. We started feeding hay about a month earlier than normal.”
According to the Nov. 1 U.S. Drought Monitor, half the state, including Elmore County, is in extreme drought, and almost 15 percent is in exceptional drought.
Lack of feed has prompted some cattle farmers to reduce herd size. Mike Carnes of Marshall County. Carnes sold around 30 brood cows this summer when the drought started.
“We also marketed calves earlier this year,” Carnes said. “They were a lighter weight than normal, and it’s a down time in the market. That affects our income.”
Carnes started feeding hay about two months earlier than usual. While he has hay left over from last year, he said he anticipates needing about 150 more rolls. Poague and Carnes both said they usually plant winter grazing, but they didn’t this year because of lack of soil moisture.
Local governments, including Birmingham, have responded to the drought by implementing water restrictions, which has impacted the state’s greenhouse and nursery industries.
“Birmingham is the biggest marketplace in the state for the green industry. When the city puts in watering restrictions, it affects us,” said Phillip Hunter of Shelby County’s Hunter Trees. “November is usually a peak month for shipping trees, but jobs are getting postponed.”
Hunter said it hasn’t rained on his farm since the beginning of August, so he’s relied on groundwater irrigation for three months to keep trees alive.
The dry conditions have led the Alabama Forestry Commission to expand a no-burn order to all 67 counties. Since Oct. 1, there have been 1,421 wildfires on 15,409 acres of land in the state.