LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala - A recent U.S. Drought Monitor report says one-third of Alabama is abnormally dry. Cattle farmers are among the many who are struggling to stay profitable in the face of Mother Nature.
If Northern Alabama cattle farmers had a choice, they would be feeding their cattle grass. It's more nutritious and better for the animal altogether. Instead, farmers are forced to put the hay out roughly two months ahead of schedule.
By now, you are probably aware the heat is impacting most crops. You've felt the head first hand. But so has the grass and in turn, so have the cattle.
Their current and future calves will pay the price too.
"When they don't have good grass and everything is brown and dried up, they are not going to be healthy. I'd call them (calves) scrawny," said Donna Jo Curtis, a Limestone County cattle farmer.
Curtis tends to five fields of cattle. She's seen it all. Even her fair share of droughts. She's also familiar with weather conditions opposite of what we are experiencing now.
Curtis explained, "Last winter was real wet and muddy. It was really hard on the cattle. We could tell it when we weaned the calves. They weaned 10-20 pounds lighter than they did last year."
Curtis was forced to roll out the hay 2 months early. She even planned on selling some of her hay before the drought to make extra money. But that's no longer on the table.
Curtis won't make as much money as she expected to this year.
"Most people know how much hay they are going to need. And that's what they bale. Beyond that it's going to be difficult to find hay," said Curtis.
The drought has also started to dry up natural water features on several farms.
There is a possibility that farmers could get disaster assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture like victims of a natural disaster would. However, nothing has been formalized on that front.