Drought takes a bill toll on farmers

This year has been Carroll County’s second-longest dry spell since such records were kept. The longest came in 1904 when there were 67 days of no recorded rainfall, just a couple of days longer than 2016.

"Part of farming is a challenge you have to take the good with the bad." -Randall Crumbley cattle and poultry farmer in Bowdon

It’s a drought that has been particularly hard on the county’s agriculture community. According to the Georgia Farm Bureau website, agriculture is Georgia’s oldest and largest industry, bringing in approximately $74.35 billion annually to Georgia’s economy. Local farmers have had to sell off cattle, purchase more feed, and have lost a significant amount of money in hay sales.

Recent rains, with more to come this week, have helped but won’t make up the rainfall deficit created by the drought.

“Officially here on the farm, not calculating the last rain over the last few days, we were 16.5 inches behind on rainfall since the last day of March,” said Keith Herndon.

Herndon is a horse and hay farmer in Villa Rica where he has several Appaloosa horses, hay and alfalfa on the Cosby Farm. His market is geared toward the horse owner and sells square bales of hay.

Herndon estimates losing more than $35,000 in hay and alfalfa sales.

He has been farming for over 25 years and said that this is the worst drought he has seen.

“We had a bad drought in 2007 but nothing compared to this,” he said. “This has been devastating to all hay producers and row crop farmers in this part of the state. The cattle producers have been feeding hay since September and that was hay they should not have had to start using till, say, now. They will run out of hay and that is why they are selling off cows because when they have to start outsourcing extra feed and hay the cows are a liability instead of a profitability.”

Keith Herndon is a horse and hay farmer in Villa Rica, Ga.

Herndon estimates losing more than $35,000 in hay and alfalfa sales. He has eight horses on his farm and is able to feed them his own farm’s hay for right now but said he will need to see what happens over the winter.

Phil McGukin, president of McGukin Construction Inc., has a farm in Carroll County and another in Heard County. He said he sold 15 of his 20 cows, partially due to the drought. Also, his creeks and ponds dried up so he had to purchase a water trough to give his cattle. McGukin said that his creeks have dried up before but never his pond.

Farmer Phil McGuken drives his truck through his pasture. McGukin had to sell a few cattle this year, and that is in part due to the level 2 drought in Georgia.
McGukin looks out toward his pond. His pond has been receding this year due to the drought.
Phil McGukin points out that sections of his pasture are brown showing only ground.

McGukin has Bermuda and fescue grass but believes only the Bermuda has a chance of surviving for next spring. McGukin said several farmers are purchasing hay in south Georgia and the costs for a roll of hay is around $40, and then around another $40 to have it trucked back. The biggest problem with the drought, McGukin believes, is buying more feed and hay.

Cattle and poultry farmer Randall Crumbley of Bowdon sold a few cows and anticipates to sell more, including the less productive cows. Crumbley said the drought has also hurt his hay-selling business.

“I sold hay too early, anticipating one more cut that we did not have,” he said.

Crumbley prepares his hay for his cattle Saturday morning.
Randall Crumbley feeds his cattle Saturday morning. Crumbley did have left over hay to feed his cows.

Crumbley said he usually sells around 300 rolls of hay this time of year but sold only 100 and used 200 on his cattle. His creeks also dried up, so like many other farmers he will need to use county or city water for cattle.

Crumbley currently has 75 cows but anticipates selling a few more before winter is over.

“Part of farming is a challenge you have to take the good with the bad.” Crumbley said.


Melanie Boyd

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