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Worsening drought hits North Hall farms hard
What is now an extreme drought is drying livestock pastures
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The recent drought has turned a field of grass brown at the Truelove Dairy in Clermont.

Hall County is in such a severe to extreme drought that “we’d need 13 inches of rain just to get back to where we should be,” Michael Wheeler, Hall County extension agent, said Friday morning.

The northern half of the county was listed in “extreme drought” this week by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“The pastures have been in bad shape for about a month, and they continue to feel the effects of the drought,” Wheeler said.

He said livestock producers in the county “are having to feed hay already,” which normally is done in the winter.

Jerry Truelove, who has a dairy farm in the Clermont area, said the lack of rain has been a double blow.

“Hay supplies have been about half of normal,” he said, but “we’ve had to feed more hay than normal.”

He said he has been “feeding twice as much (hay) as we normally do.”

He does not have the ability to irrigate crops.

“The corn crop is not going to produce as much as it normally does,” he said, meaning he’ll have to buy feed rather than grow it.

Truelove said part of the corn crop might produce “half what it normally does,” but he said some of the crop is burned up.

There were 24 days in June that Gainesville saw no rain and 19 in July, according to the National Weather Service.

Just 19.74 inches of rain had been recorded this year in Gainesville as of Friday. The normal precipitation in that time in Gainesville is 31.34 inches, according to the weather service. Wheeler noted the state average for that time period is 33 to 34 inches.

Last year, rainfall from January through July totaled 25 inches, and in 2014 it was 29.22 inches, according to the weather service. Gainesville had a comparative deluge in 2013 with 53 inches of rain in the first part of the year.

Truelove said the lack of rain has not affected milk production for his cows, but food must be adjusted to provide a proper balance of nutrients.

Heat can affect milk production, though. He said dairy farmers typically run fans in the summer to help cool the cows.

“It seems like it’s been a little bit hotter than normal,” he said.

He noted that area beef farmers also have had “to go ahead and start feeding hay early.”

Jody Farmer, who has beef cattle and has planted soybeans until this year, said he has not seen weather conditions “this bad this early. We’ve been fighting this since spring.”

Farmer said, “these showers are just missing us. Cleveland got a pretty good shower yesterday, and we didn’t get a drop.”

He said he has 350 cows, and “we’re pretty much having to feed everything we’ve got.”

He added, “We’re getting a lot less than half (what) we got last year at this time” for the cows.

It’s just a matter of adding numbers, he said.

“You can put more money into feed costs than your cows are going to bring,” he said.

He also said he did not plant soybeans this year.

“It’s the first year we sat out in probably eight years,” Farmer said. “We didn’t see the use in it.

“I hate to see anybody struggling, but this year everybody is.”

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