"We are facing the worst forage situation I have ever seen in Alabama," says Don Ball, Auburn University extension agronomist. "It's been very tough." Because 2006 was dry, most hay barns were empty going into 2007. Dry conditions again this year meant many people produced less than one-half their normal hay crops. "Overgrazed pastures have been stressed, weakened and thinned, and there will be long-term implications," Ball explains. "I expect severe weed pressure in pastures next year." Some parts of the state have had a little rain the past two or three months. This has allowed some producers in these areas to establish some good winter-annual pastures to help compensate for the lack of hay. But winter-annual pasture availability depends on the amount of rain received in a particular area.
Some livestock producers are having trouble providing their animals with water because ponds and creeks are very low or even dry in many parts of the state. "A lot of people have severely culled cattle herds on the heels of having culled heavily during last year's drought," Ball says. "People have used creative strategies, such as moving animals to other states. Some producers are feeding alternative feedstuffs, such as byproducts from milling, cottonseed, cotton hulls, and distillers grains, for example. But the cost of alternative feedstuffs is high, too."
The Alabama Forage Conference will be held this Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Pike County Cattlemen's Association building in Troy. The program starts at 9 a.m. Learn more at www.alabamaforages.com.
Contact Ball at 334-844-5491.