Dairy farmers see pros and cons of abnormally dry few weeks
A few counties in Georgia have been classified as abnormally dry since the middle of October, which is good and bad news for dairy farmers.
According to drought.org, portions of Macon, Dooly, Sumter, Baldwin, Washington and Hancock counties are in the least severe category of a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Less rainfall means the soil is drier, which isn't good for crops. Fortunately for row crop farmers, most of their crops have been harvested already.
“We’re in a bit of a lull period considering peanuts have already been harvested, cotton has mostly been harvested," said Erin Forte with the UGA Extension Office in Macon County. "What it would really impact now would be pastures.”
Macon County is the state's top dairy producing county, and the drought means the grass cattle graze on is not coming in.
“The fall is a difficult time of year for pastures to begin with, because with the growing patterns of perennial grasses that we have in the southeast, our warm season perennial grasses are pretty much done at this point," Forte explained. "At the same time, our cool season grasses haven’t really kicked in yet and they won’t till the mid to the end of January. It’s a difficult time of year anyway, then with decreased rain that just causes any regrowth to basically stop."
Since pastures are not coming in, farmers have been forced to purchase their cows supplementary food, which is an extra cost.
“You’ll see producers having to feed a lot more hay and more supplement types of feed at this time of year," Forte said.
The bright side is that cows cow more milk in drier weather, so farmers aren't getting too bad of a deal.