Gauteng and NW Province

Forced to sell cattle during drought, dairy farmers ‘just keep praying’ for rain

By Jay Gray, NBC News

BOLIVAR, Mo. – The crumbling earth and burned out fields in this small town of 10,000 are sad evidence of what has been a dry, hot and, at times, desperate summer.

“The drought has been excessive in this region for several weeks, and it’s not just that we’ve had the 100 degree-plus temperatures — but they started so early,” said Darin Chappell, Bolivar’s city administrator.

“Normally they begin in July and go through the middle of August, but this year they started in June. So we’ve had an extraordinary amount of heat and lack of water.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack designated all of Missouri’s 114 counties as disaster areas, enabling farmers to access federal assistance, in mid-July. As much as 93 percent of the state is suffering through extreme drought conditions.

David Franscka said it’s the worst his family has seen in more than 50 years of dairy farming.

“This year, with the intense heat we’ve had and the lack of rain, we’ve had only two measurable rains since April 30,” said Franscka.

NBC’s Jay Gray reports from a dairy farm in Bolivar, Mo., where farmers are struggling to pay sky-high hay and feed prices for their livestock, spurred on by the drought.

Ponds have dried up, forcing his family to haul as much as 8,000 gallons of water each day to the cattle herd.
Pastures aren’t producing any hay or grass for grazing either, leaving many farmers, like Franscka, with no choice but to buy feed – which right now costs more than the milk he’s producing.

Some smaller farms have been forced to close down – selling-off their cattle for slaughter.

As the drought continues, ranchers worry for the future especially now that the total number of cattle in the U.S. is already the smallest in 60 years. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

16 August 2012

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