A Bundle of Help On it's Way to Carolina

US - Help is on the way for North Carolina farmers who are running out of feed for their cattle and horses because of the drought.
calendar icon 18 December 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

The Council of State approved a plan presented last week by Gov. Mike Easley for up to $3.5 million to purchase and transport hay from other parts of the country. The hay will be sold at low cost to the farmers, allowing the state to recoup some of the money.

The lack of food has forced farmers across the region to sell their cattle off for the winter, said Tyrone Fisher, area livestock specialist with the N.C. Cooperative Extension.

"To a farmer, a cow is an employee. If a cow is not carrying a calf over the winter, the employee is not working for them," Fisher said. "In this scenario, if an animal is not going to produce a calf come spring, the farmers have taken them to the auction block or the slaughterhouse."

It typically costs about $350 to keep an animal on the farm during the winter, Fisher said. But this year, estimates are more than $500. He estimated farmers in the area are selling 30 percent to 40 percent of cattle to make it through the winter. Some are getting out of the business entirely.

The state is still developing its plan for where to buy the hay and how to transport it most efficiently, said Renee Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the governor.

"We're kind of plowing new ground here because we've not done this before," she said.

Fisher said he heard the bulk of the hay will be brought in from the Midwest, with the first shipments arriving by sometime in mid-January.

The state estimates that it needs about 100,000 rolls of hay.

Lee County farmer Alan Cox, who has about 100 cattle at Cox Mill Farms, said he would be in trouble if not for the hay he saved from last year.

"I tried to sell it last year. I couldn't give it away," he said. "I'm going to be all right on account of that."

Cox said his farm usually produces 300 rolls of hay per year. This year, he made 57 rolls.

"A lot of people have been hit hard, especially some of the bigger farmers," he said. "If it don't go to raining by March, we can near about hang it up again."

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