The Heat Is On Livestock Farmers

NORTH CAROLINA - High temperatures, drought affect animals, production of feed.
calendar icon 24 August 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

Sprinklers that cool Ben Shelton’s 1,100 dairy cows are set to come on when the temperature reaches 75 degrees. They’ve been running around the clock at times during this month’s heat spike, spritzing the 1,500-pound Holsteins every 10 minutes.

Three-foot-square fans keep a brisk breeze blowing on the black-and-white cows - doubling the farm’s monthly power bill to $9,000. The placid animals also are slurping 40 gallons of water a day in their shaded feeding bunkers.

Livestock, dairy and poultry account for roughly 60 percent of North Carolina’s farm sales of about $9 billion, so the withering heat has farmers hosing down cows and hogs and keeping fans trained on them as well as on chickens and turkeys.

They’re protecting their livelihoods and staving off losses that could translate to higher grocery prices.

The 100-plus-degree heat is the latest hit in a difficult growing season that started with a freak Easter freeze, continued with a dry spring and now drought conditions across much of the state. The heat is baking crops in the nation’s eighth-largest farm economy.

Numbers vary by region, but some farmers expect to lose a third to half or more of crops such as corn, soybeans and hay. Tobacco and cotton could suffer. And sun-scorched pasture can’t feed beef cattle, so they’re eating hay that’s already in short supply.

"It’s the toughest one I’ve seen," said Gerald Warren, who has been farming 42 years in Newton Grove, N.C. "Corn is burning up. All our crops are suffering."

Source: ColumbiaTribune
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