SALEM, Ohio —Temperatures have soared into triple digits in the South most of the summer, leaving the agriculture industry there with huge losses.
In fact, Texas alone, in the midst of the most severe one-year drought on record, has more than $5.2 billion in losses in cattle, grains and cotton. Many fear the figure will rise.
According to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, if the state does not receive 4.5 inches of rain between now and the beginning of October, Texas will break a record set in 1956 for the driest 12 months on record. This year’s drought is projected to be in top three worst in the state’s history.
Can’t pay feed bill
Some Texas cattle herds are being sold off in their entirety, and others producers are downsizing herds, but feeding the remaining cattle is going to cost producers between $150-$170 per ton. Last year, hay was selling for $112 a ton in Texas.
In comparison, hay in Ohio is costing $120 per ton at the Wooster Hay Auction and $95 per ton at the Ashland Hay, Straw and Grain auction.
Experts at Texas A&M University and Oklahoma State University Extension are estimating it is costing $100 a month per animal to feed livestock down South.
Hay is a huge issue for producers since corn remains around $7 a bushel and the chances of a local wheat crop are little to none, according to the West Texas A&M University’s Dryland Agriculture Institute.
Farm organizations from across the country are rallying other producers to do what they can to assist the farmers in the South.
Bob Clapper and his wife, Marie, are two Ohio producers who have stepped up to help farmers get what they need. They are donating seven tons of 2011 grass round bales in the hopes that it will help even one farmer.
The OCA is working to find trucking for the hay.
“It’s the right thing to do. You have to help neighbors. We have been blessed with lots of hay this year,” said Clapper.
Rocky Black, Ohio Department of Agriculture, said they are trying to round up 250 semi-truck loads of hay for Texas. He is keeping in contact with the Texas Department of Agriculture to see what other help Ohio can provide.
And Ohio is not alone in helping producers in the South struggling with the drought.
Wisconsin farmers banded together after hearing of the plight of Oklahoma producers during a Farm Aid concert. They started organizing a haylift, and when the farmers were finished, they had hay donated and the transportation was funded as well.
Local market impact
While the weather has slammed farmers in the South, it would be wrong to think that the Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia area would not be affected by the drought.
OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes said there is no doubt the region will feel it indirectly, but in the future, consumers could feel it directly.
Cattle in the South are being sold in huge numbers, and at some point, the culling will have to end and heifers will be on the auction block.
Without heifers to produce another crop, the future beef prices could rise because tightened supply.
“It’s like the perfect storm brewing. The cattle herd in the United State is at a 50-year low and 95 percent of Texas remains in some form of drought,” Grimes said.
Grimes said local producers may want to consider purchasing cows if they have pasture land.
He said beef producers are in a Catch 22, with corn reaching historically high prices, high transportation costs making hay transportation expensive, and the lack of a wheat crop being planted as of yet in the South.
“In the past, when dry conditions existed, corn was used as feed, but that has more than doubled in cost in the past five years,” Grimes said.
Wheat pastures were also used as a supplemental feed when corn was too expensive, but with no wheat crop in the South for cattle to graze, it will send input costs even higher for producers.
“The cattle markets are not going to be for the weak of heart. It’s like playing the stock market — very volatile with no easy answers,” he said.
To read about a related post on The Social Silo about how it could be worse in Ohio, click here.