NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — As of Thursday, all of Northwest Arkansas was classified as being in a moderate, severe or extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
When there’s a drought, farmers are affected. For cattle farmers, it could mean having to sell off cattle or purchasing feed at a high price. Steve Bartholomew is the ranch foreman at Ogden Ranch. He said when there’s a drought, it causes alarm among all cattle farmers, even if the farm is good at managing the drought.
“We’re having to struggle to get all the hay we need for the cows we run, and pasture seems to be going away pretty quick now,” Bartholomew said.
If there’s a drought, that may lead to cattle farmers having to feed cattle earlier.
“You buy enough hay to go all through the winter, and if we have to start feeding early then we run out at the end and have to run around to find some more,” Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew said normally it rains this time of years, and it’s abnormal for there to be a drought in the area right now. With chances for rain slim over the next 10 days, it could be a hard couple of weeks for ranchers.
Chrisie Smith’s family lives and works at Schwerin Farms Inc. It’s a cattle business. Smith said another issue with droughts is water for livestock.
“As we see our ponds go low, we start thinking about backup water sources going into winter,” Smith said.
Smith’s family owns a large operation. Many ranchers regularly have to deal with changing weather patterns and are used to periods of rain and drought. However, smaller operations could be in tighter situations when winter hits.
“People with 20-acre farms are probably grazing their field the whole time. We’re able to rotate our fields, give pasture a break and recover from the drought,” Smith said.
Those that only have a small acreage to work with may have to buy feed or sell off cattle to get their farm through winter, which can be a big hit financially.
“Their feed cost is going up significantly, just because there’s a demand for it. So, everything is supply and demand, whether that’s where they’re buying their feed or they’re selling their calf crop,” Smith said.
According to Bartholomew, Ogden Ranch is in good shape for the winter, but to make life easier for ranchers and to help smaller ranches, he hopes and prays for one thing.
“Rain. We need rain here. We need rain all in the cattle country,” Bartholomew said.