The record early freeze, combined with an ongoing summer drought, has created a hay crisis that threatens to put many livestock producers out of business in the Carolinas and Virginia.
In North Carolina, Steve Troxler, commissioner of agriculture, says his state's livestock industry may need up to 800,000 round bales of hay. To put that into perspective Troxler notes that one tractor trailer truck can haul 32 of the large bales of hay.
In South Carolina drought conditions have continued to deteriorate. In response to the ongoing drought the South Carolina, Drought Response Committee recently upgraded the drought level to severe for all but two counties in the state.
The drought, combined with the Easter freeze, has had a devastating impact on South Carolina agriculture. One of the most critical commodities in great demand is hay for feeding livestock. The drought has delayed much-needed cuttings, significantly reducing the normal hay supply. To make matters worse, hay is also in short supply in most of the Southeastern and Southern states.
Grain crop, cotton and peanut losses to the spring freeze and summer drought will be huge across the upper south. Tragic as these losses are for row crop farmers, they often have crop insurance and their plight is pretty well set, Troxler says.
Cattle producers will see the affects of this drought for many years, because it will dramatically affect the number of breeding stock that is the backbone of a livestock operation. Helping livestock operations survive the hay crisis is critical to the long-term future of the cattle and hog business in the Carolinas, according to the North Carolina ag commissioner.
Hugh Weathers, South Carolina commissioner of agriculture, suggests those who have hay for sale and those who need hay should visit the USDA Farm Service Agency eHayNet. The national Internet-based Hay Net Ad Service allows farmers in every state to share ‘Need Hay’ ads and ‘Have Hay’ ads online.
Weathers, who has a large dairy operation in Bowman, S.C., says word-of-mouth is one of the best ways for finding hay.