Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought

How does drought impact cattle farmers and ranchers? This report from the Arkansas drought shares a few examples. This article was originally published July 18, 2012 on CNN Eatocracy. Click here to see all of my CNN articles.

Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought | CNN Eatocracy

Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought

This year’s drought has been rough across much of the country. All year, my dad has been telling me of the dry conditions in Arkansas, how the first hay crop didn’t make, and now, how many farmers are selling their cattle herds because there is no hay or grass to feed the livestock.

The recent heatwave only intensified the situation, drying up ponds, pastures, and leaving many trees to start shedding leaves early. I haven’t had the opportunity for a trip home, but I can only imagine how rough it is.

Fires have been breaking out across Arkansas, keeping many on edge and firefighters busy containing the flames. Over the past week, some spotty showers have popped up daily, but it isn’t enough to ease the situation.

Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought | CNN Eatocracy

The July 10 drought monitor update shows that the area of extreme drought doubled in one week to 71 percent of the state and exceptional drought is creeping in, jumping to 3.25 percent in one week. Now over 80 percent of the lower 48 states are affected by abnormally dry or drought conditions.

Like many others across the state, my family’s cattle auction in Searcy, Arkansas is seeing headcounts well above norms runs for summer months. My father and I shared this story recently on DTN The Progressive Farmer. Our auction would normally run 400-500 head weekly during the summer months, but the past two auctions have been 1,400 and 1,100 head of cattle. Here’s the most recent market reportLocal news stations and nationally NBC News have reported on the drought conditions in Arkansas.

But what does the Arkansas drought really look like from the pasture? My parents sent me a few photos over the weekend. The best I can describe the pastures I grew up on is by comparing them to the arid regions in the Western States.

Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought | CNN Eatocracy
My dad has been feeding cattle hay for some time now. Nothing else for them to eat.
Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought | CNN Eatocracy
Many ponds are getting dangerously low. This could cause concern for debris and unclean water for livestock.
Praying for rain in the Arkansas drought | CNN Eatocracy
Many trees have started shedding leaves. Some like these are bare.

The spotty showers are nice if one pops up over your place, but what folks really need in drought-stricken areas is a few weeks of slow, steady rain, followed by a return to normal patterns. Unfortunately, that’s not what the forecast predicts. Until then, just pray for rain.

Follow updates for the drought across the country on Social Media through the Twitter hashtags #drought, #drought12, and see how it’s affecting farmers and ranchers on the #agchat and #ranchlife hashtags.

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