Some Arkansas ranchers may be reaching into hay supplies earlier than normal this fall as drought dries up pastures.

“With no significant rainfall for a few weeks now, the grass is drying up,” says Steven Sheets, ag agent with University of Arkansas Extension in Hempstead County. “We’ve had some reports of creeks and ponds drying up – if they ever recovered from the past two years.”

At this point in the season, rains are needed to boost production of winter-annual grasses, says Sheets. “The positive to this year is that we have produced lots of hay earlier in the year. However, if it doesn't rain in the next few weeks, we will be forced to start feeding hay.”

“It’s getting dry in a hurry,” adds Adam Willis, Sheets’ counterpart in Newton County. “We need rain badly. Our pastures are going to start to suffer as a result. These 90-degree days are really starting to take their toll.”

The dry conditions were welcome by some state farmers harvesting other crops. “Corn harvest is winding down,” says Gus Wilson, ag agent in Chicot County. “Yields are doing very well. It’s just very hot and dusty. But we would rather eat dust than harvest in the mud.”

The Sept. 10 U.S. Drought Monitor map shows severe drought continues throughout the state’s southernmost tier of counties. Moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions are found in many parts of central Arkansas.

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