Auburn, July 6---Travel down any rural byway
in Alabama and youíre likely to notice acre upon acre of freshly
wrong with this picture?
Absolutely nothing, especially if youíre a cattle
producer in central and south Alabama still recovering from the
effects of one of the worst droughts in Alabama agricultural
Indeed, as far as cattle producers are concerned,
the heavy rains are like manna from heaven.
"From the standpoint of forages, Alabama
farmers are in very good shape," says Dr. Darrell Rankins, an
Alabama Cooperative Extension System animal scientist and Auburn
University professor of animal science.
Itís a far cry from what producers faced almost a
year ago as they grappled with one of the driest summers on record.
In many regions of Alabama, dry conditions got so bad that cattle
producers ran out of fresh water resources and hay.
As drought conditions worsened, many producers
pondered the bitter prospect of liquidating their herds and getting
out of the business entirely, ending what, for many producers, is a
In an effort to lend a helping hand, Alabama
Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bishop organized a haylift,
encouraging farmers in drought-free areas of the state to donate
excess supplies of hay to hard-pressed producers farther south.
Many drought-stressed producers managed to squeak
by, often by securing alternative feed sources, such as cottonseed
and rice bran, wheat middlings and soybean hulls Ė anything that
could take the place of hay.
Fortunately for producers, heavy rainfall resulted
in greener pastures by February 2001, and itís been smooth sailing
ever since, except for an initially dry spring in south Alabama. In
fact, for a short time, many producers in southeast Alabama feared a
dry spell in early spring was an ominous sign of a repeat of last
Fortunately for producers, the byproduct of
Hurricane Allisonís spring visit to East Texas was a hefty amount
of rainfall for the driest portions of southeast Alabama.
Since then, producers in the region have seldom gone
wanting for rain.
"If anything, wet weather has been a little bit
of a hindrance this summer, because itís prevented producers from
harvesting all of the hay thatís available," Rankins says.
But considering all the hardships associated with
last yearís drought, most farmers would gladly take inconvenient
rainfall over prolonged drought anytime, he says.
(Source: Dr. Darrell Rankins, Extension
Animal Scientist, 334-844-1546.)