Cattle farmers hurting with lack of water for livestock

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - If you've been upset because your brown grass and wilting plants don't look pretty right now, think how many farmers must feel right now. They rely on vegetation in order to feed their animals, and that affects their bottom line.

David Coleman, a cattle farmer who works at the Virginia Farm Bureau says, "the dry weather has took a pretty drastic effect on the grass and the crops in Virginia."

The livestock food supply is slim and forcing cattle farmers like David Coleman to take action.

Coleman says, "a lot of people are having to start feeding hay, which it's bad to feed hay in the summer because that's what you feed in the winter time."

The other side to this story is that even if there was enough for them to eat, cattle aren't as hungry right now because of the weather.  That may seem good for farmers since pastures are dry, but it's actually a huge problem.  Cattle go into heat stress when it's between 80 and 90 degrees outside, and we haven't seen a high temp below 80 since May 25.

Coleman says, "when the temperatures get this high, it is very hard on the cattle. They start to pant, their respiratory increases. They drink more water, and also they decrease their feed intake."

Cattle don't eat as much because digesting increases body heat, but that has serious side effects for farmers.

Coleman says, "on the dairy side, you get less milk production which affects your bottom line, and on the beef side that animal is not gaining weight, which is what you are trying to do is put weight on an animal."

The situation is forcing some farmers to sell their cattle two months earlier than usual at a lower price.  Farmers are also having to spend more now to keep cows healthy.

Coleman says, "we try to provide clean cool water for the animals at all times, make sure they have shade. A lot of times in the dairy industry what they will do is they will provide water spray on the animals with some fans blowing it to help dissipate that heat on the animal

In the end farmers say they will do what they can to cope, but they are hoping for more rain and a lot of it very soon.

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