Rain impacting future food for cattle

Rain impacting future food for cattle

BULLOCH CO., GA (WTOC) - The recent rain has made farmers' jobs challenging.

We think about rain being beneficial when it comes to growing crops, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. It's not exactly hurting cows now - it's more about what they'll eat this winter.

Cattle and hay operations need some sunshine to help crops grow in the field and to firm up the ground so tractors can cut and bail it. Growers need to cut every few weeks to make it grow even more. If they don't, the plant can get too much water and the nutrition in the hay goes down. Folks from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service say the hay needs a balance of water, but also sunshine.

"In some cases, it's too much, especially when it comes to harvesting forages and those things. We're trying to get dry enough to get out of the fields," said Carole Knight, UGA Extension Service.

Knight says cows may have plenty of grass to eat now on the ground, but the question is - how much hay will growers have on supply as fall and winter approach.

Becca Creasy and her daughter Finley check on the cows daily and haven't had a sunny afternoon to do it in weeks. She says they're in better shape than the hayfield that grows their food.

"Essentially, we need 3-5 dry, hot days after we cut a crop of hay, to let it dry out and cure in the field, then wrap and bail it," Creasy said.

The more they cut, the better the hay grows. Creasy and her husband grow 4,000 acres of hay and sell 90 percent of it. They normally get several cuttings in a season. This year, they may only get three or four. Experts say the hay loses its nutrition the longer it stays there.

"Those forages become overly mature and the quality of them go down," Knight said.

Ironically, the rain has grass pastures lush, and it's a good food source. The hay will be what cows graze on when it goes away.

"So, we're going to potentially see an impact in the fall and winter when we don't have those harvested forages to depend upon," Knight said.

Becca says they've grown about a third of what they normally have this time of year. They'll be working with other growers elsewhere who haven't had so much rain.

"One on hand, it pays to have a strong network within the industry, but at the same time, it's not something we plan for or prepare for," she said.

She says they normally see rain as a help to keep the hay going, but this year, each shower pushes their crop even further back.

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