Clay County Drought Agriculture Update

— Written By Silas Brown and last updated by
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Clay and Cherokee Counties have been moved from Extreme (D-3) to Exceptional (D-4) Drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. These conditions have caused many waterways and wells to dry up. Many livestock owners have been feeding winter supplies of hay since, as early as, August, which will make the winter months even more challenging. Below are some tips that will hopefully help extend short hay supplies through winter months. Also, listed below are assistance opportunities made available through your local agriculture agencies.

Tips for extending hay supplies:
1. First it is critical to know how much hay you will need to get through the winter. Attached is a publication to help you make that estimate. Feel free to call (389-6305) for assistance.
2. Consider thinning your livestock herd by culling any animals that are older and are declining in performance.
3. Consider early weaning. True, current prices indicate that it’s not the best time to sell. However, if it will keep you from running out of hay, you may actually save money in the long run. Also, by taking the milk production pressure off of maternal animals it will take less hay to maintain them through the winter months.
4. Develop a “sacrifice feeding area.”  Most pastures are in terrible condition as-is and, again, most, if not all, producers are already feeding hay. By limiting the area that livestock have access to it may allow the remaining pasture to recover more quickly once we do begin getting rain.
5. If you haven’t already, invest in a hay ring or some feeding structure to keep animals from stomping or laying on hay. Given our situation, every bite may be critical depending upon your hay supply. Using rings or similar structures will put more in the animal rather than being wasted as bedding.
6. If you have hay that isn’t covered or in shelter, chances are it hasn’t had enough rain on it to do very much damage so far considering our drought conditions. If you think you will need every ounce of hay to make it through the winter, consider covering it to save as much as possible over the next few months.
7. Lastly, you can extend how long your hay will last by using dry feeds. A general rule of thumb is feeding approximately 1% of their body weight in feed concentrate (corn or other grains). So, a 1,000 lb. animal would get about 10 lbs. of feed in addition to free-choice hay.

Local Agriculture Agencies and Assistance Opportunities:

-FSA (Farm Services Agency) has disaster relief assistance payments available due to the drought condition. Call 837.2721 x.2 for more information about this program.
-Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) as well as the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) have cost share programs to assist in supplying water to livestock. Call 389-9764 in Clay Co. or 837.2721 x.3 in Cherokee Co.
-NC State Extension provides educational assistance in pasture management, livestock nutrition & health. Call 389.6305 in Clay County or 837.2210 in Cherokee County for information or assistance.