Hay farmers buckle under the drought

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Features Editor

The answer to the riddle "How far can you go into the woods?" is half way – then you’ll be on the way out.

But, Pike County farmers have been more than half way into the woods and they’re not on the way out yet.

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Last week’s rains were showers of blessings but, if they go AWOL again, it could mean very shallow pockets for farmers this year.

The rains have perked up lawns and flower gardens and given hope to peanuts and cotton crop. Cattle farmers, however, won’t see much gain from the rain until a month down the road when the pasture land is once again ready for grazing.

Chad Thrash, the area’s biggest hay farmer, said, if the rain continues, two cutting of hay may be possible but the effects of the spring and early summer drought will still cause feed problems for cattle farmers through the winter.

"We can usually get three to four cuttings of hay a year but we’ve already lost two," Thrash said. "That means there will be a shortage of hay in the winter because we’ll have about half the hay stored we normally would."

Thrash said he had a large reserve of hay from last year’s crop but it’s down to about 200 bales.

"In the last couple of weeks, I’ve sold about 750 bales and I expect to be out in few days," he said.

"I’m on the way to Luverne with 33 bales now. Farmers have got to have hay until they can graze again."

Thrash, who owns and operates a hay farm near Brundidge, said he has never seen conditions like this and the effects have been devastating to all phases of farming.

"Most of the cattle farmers with large herds grow their own hay and there’s usually no problem with feeding their animals during the winter," he said. "Farmers who have small herds usually buy their hay because it’s not profitable to buy and maintain the equipment you need to cut and bale hay. It’s just more economical for them to buy."

This year there will be plenty of

buyers but Thrash is afraid he won’t have much hay to sell.

"At best, I’ll have about half of what I normally would have," he said. "I had some good rye and clover hay before the drought and that helped."

On the up side of the drought for him, Thrash was able to sell his surplus hay from last year.

"That will help me out," he said. "If it hadn’t been for the surplus, I would have been hit extra hard."

Thinking toward next year, Thrash said he won’t have that surplus and, if another drought hits next spring ..

. "I don’t want to even think about that."