PERRY COUNTY, AR — If you can’t visualize what a drought looks like, you can hear it when you walk on the crunchy, dry ground.
For Grahl Phillips, a Perry County farmer, keeping the cows fed and hydrated on a 600 acre plot is costly and challenging.
“This is the worst I’ve seen in 30 years,” Phillips said.
Phillips said cows don’t generally eat hay until October, but this year, it’s either hay or nothing. Now the barns are about empty.
“Texas went through this and we had some hay here that we sent down there It’s vice versa now. We’re getting hay from Texas,” Phillips said.
Farmers packed the first-ever Grazing Lands Conference to get tips on managing their land.
“We may not be able to drought proof our farms but we can make our operation a little more resistant to drought,” said Paul Casey, chairman of the Arkansas Grazing Lands Coalition.
Presenters recommended closing off certain parts of the pasture and offered irrigation tips to maintain a moist soil. But Casey said farmers fail to plan for droughts and this one caught them off guard.
“Here in this part of the country where we usually get sufficient rainfall, drought management is usually an afterthought, something that’s never discussed,” Casey said.
Phillips said this experience taught a lesson that he won’t forget.
“I’m sure they’ll be a lot of better planning going on now because it’s tough,” Phillips said.