The heat and dryness has been more than uncomfortable. It has been harmful to local agriculture.
“This heat’s been devastating when you couple it with the fact that we’re not getting much rain,” said Steve Edwards, Director at the UT Extension Office, on Monday. “The heat’s probably not as big a factor as the lack of rainfall.”
Home gardens that have been watered with a hose are in good shape, Edwards said.
“My biggest (concerns) are pastures and hayfields,” Edwards said. “Our biggest agricultural commodity is beef cattle. So pastures and hayfields are a big concern.”
About 80 percent of the pastures and hayfields are in poor or very poor condition, Edwards said.
Lack of rain has kept pastures from growing, and the cost to feed cows has gone up, so farmers are dipping into their hay storage, local farmer Rick Hunley said.
“And feeding in July is not good,” Edwards said.
Hunley has already begun feeding from his hay storage at about four of his locations. He has cattle at about six locations.
In a good year, most farmers, if they have enough grass, won’t start feeding hay until late November or December, Edwards said.
Feeding from hay storage during the summer can cause a shortage, Hunley said. The intended purpose for storing the hay is to use it during the winter.
“If we have a big hay shortage this winter, (hay can get) expensive,” Edwards said.
A hay shortage can cause prices to increase in the fall and winter, and people will have to sell cattle because they can’t afford to feed them, Hunley said.
“Sometimes even if you can afford it, you can’t find it,” Edwards said.
When farmers can’t afford to feed their cows, they end up selling them.
The last couple years, Oklahoma and Texas experienced drought. Bales that normally would sell for around $30 sold for $100, if they could be found. Many farmers liquidated their cattle because they couldn’t afford to feed them. Cow numbers are down because of this.
“That’s one of the reasons beef prices are high now,” Edwards said. “Because cattle numbers are low.”
While Texas and Oklahoma are doing better this year, it takes a while to replenish a herd, Edwards said.
The last cutting of hay might be hindered by the dryness, Edwards said. This cutting can come from late July through September depending on various factors.
“Grass is not growing right now, there’s not moisture for growth,” Edwards said. “Right now, the main thing we need is rain.”
“It’s (the dryness) going to cause us to be real short on the second cutting of hay,” Hunley said. “The second cutting of hay is really important in this area.”
Farmers depend on the final cutting of hay to complete hay storage for the year, Hunley said. The farmers have a quota they have to meet.
“There’s not going to be any (hay) if we don’t get any change in the weather pattern,” Hunley said.
“We’re not in that bad a situation,” Edwards said. “We’re bad, but we’re not as bad as some.”
The USDA has listed East Tennessee as being in a moderately severe drought.
The United States Department of Agriculture gives a weekly weather report, monitoring drought conditions. Each county contributes information to this report. Edwards gives information about weather in Campbell County to USDA for this report.
The drought is worse in Central Georgia, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, Edwards said.
“If we can get some water, that will be a big relief,” Edwards said.
The long term forecast is for lower temperatures and cooler temperatures, Edwards said.
“Hopefully, the worst is behind us as far as heat and dry weather,” Edwards said.
If heavy rainfall comes, it will be all right, Hunley said.
“If it starts raining, it can bail us out,” Hunley said. “Hope the Lord can send us some rain.”
Information about drought and extreme heat resources can be found at https://utextension.tennessee.edu/campbell/.