Livestock: ‘Where’s the hay?’
A summer of record high temperatures and lack of rain has caused hay to be scarce and the cost of livestock feed to rise.
This unfortunate combination has caused local cattlemen to cull their herds earlier than usual, according to Michael Owen, assistant agent of the Webster Parish Extension Office.
“When you can only afford to feed your best cows you have to cull off and get rid of some of your herd,” he said.
To cull cattle is normal procedure, but it is usually at a time of the cattleman’s choosing.
Seventy-two-year-old Buddy Thomas, former Webster Parish 4-H agent for 35 years, has been raising cattle close to 55 years. He said he has never seen it get this bad.
“I have been doing this ever since I was a youngster,” Thompson said. “I have had a few heads of cattle and I have never seen in my life the conditions that we have.”
Thompson raises crossbred cattle and, at the time of the interview, he was planning to sell four of his 10 heads to Red River Livestock LLC.
“If we had plenty of pasture to graze and some hay, I wouldn’t and other people wouldn’t be selling,” he said. You know they sell culls but some of their better cattle they would normally try to keep.”
Ronnie Sale, who has 20 head of Braemar crossbred (tiger stripe) cows, said he normally runs his cattle on an acre and a half but because of the drought conditions, it now takes about five acres to feed each cow.
The cattle make about two laps a day around the 100 acres of pasture.
“The grass just is keeping up with the cows,” he said.
According to Sale, the small amount of rain the area has received and the few cattle he has culled has helped his situation.
“I got it down enough,” he said, “that with the little drizzle we got, it helped.”
But, he continued, “it was two or three times I thought I was going to have to sell some more.”
Alan Cameron, local veterinarian and cattleman has been raising Highland cows for 16 years. His 62-head of longhaired cattle usually make it just fine on his approximately 300 acres of land.
The main problem, he said, is that his 20-acre pond is almost dry and a creek that runs through the land that is fed by springs is completely dry.
“It has never been like this since we have been out here,” he said. “It has not been close to being dry.”
Cameron said he has bottomland where grass is still alive but that land is normally the hayfield.
“We are not making any hay because we have been letting the cows get on it,” he said. “So come winter, if we hadn’t had hay from last year we would be in serious trouble.”
Cameron said the right conditions mixed with his bottomland produced enough hay that he could sell a little this year but the current conditions and not knowing the future have put a stop to selling anymore.