Crops and livestock taking major hit during drought

Published 1:05 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The current stage three drought that much of Central Alabama is dealing with has really put a strain on crop and livestock farming. (Reporter photo/Alec Etheredge)

The current stage three drought that much of Central Alabama is dealing with has really put a strain on crop and livestock farming. (Reporter photo/Alec Etheredge)

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Staff Writer

We are in the midst of a major historical drought in the state of Alabama. To use Clanton as an example, the city has gone 43 days without a drop of rain and only has .99 inches of rain since Sept. 1.

This is causing a danger for several reasons. First, most of North and Central Alabama is under a stage three drought warning, which implements surcharges for watering.

Most of the state is also under a drought emergency which was issued by the Forestry Commission. This helps to prevent wildfires by putting in place a “No burn order” for the state, which has had over 1,000 wildfires since Oct. 1.

One thing that is going under the radar, however, is how the current drought is effecting farmers, their crops and their livestock.

“Most of the guys have been (frustrated) to death with it because we just can’t figure it out,” said Jim Pitts of the Chilton Research and Extension Center.

Pitts said farmers of cotton and corn or other crops that are being harvested now or have already been harvested aren’t really worried about it because their season is wrapping up.

“It won’t be a big concern for them this year, but if things continue the way they are it could actually end up effecting next year’s crop,” he said.

As we enter winter where many crops aren’t growing, Pitts believes next year’s crops will actually be the bigger issue.

“Normally it’s a problem come the spring,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time it was this dry, and it’s going to take a lot to get things back to where we need them to be in order to have successful crops next year.”

Things like vegetables and the famous Chilton County peach trees are what Pitts is referring to when it comes to farming for next year.

“From a peach farmer standpoint, I’ve been out and seen a lot of the tree’s just drying up,” he said. “If we don’t get water soon then our crops won’t grow like they need to.”

The more pressing and immediate issue is livestock.

“It’s really effected cow famers and other livestock because of the issues with hay,” Pitts said.

Ponds have dried up and hay production is at a dangerous low causing prices to sky rocket on the product, meaning there is less available and affordable hay for farmers to feed their cows. This is causing a lot of livestock to either die or be sold before that happens.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture has actually created a website with hay listing where livestock farmers can post any hay they have available. To look at available hay or post some for sale you can visit

“It’s pretty simple and not a scientific answer at all, but we just have to get some water,” Pitts said. “All water sources are drying up and unless you have a well of some sort, you don’t have water right now. They only thing we can do at the moment is wait it out and hope the drought will break soon.”

With no higher than a 20 percent chance of rain over the next two weeks the drought won’t be ending anytime soon and will continue to create dangers for the state.