Drought forces farmers to make tough decisions

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 6:37 PM EDT
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BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Areas in our hometowns are officially in a drought and that is forcing some farmers to make tough decisions.

“I mean these cows mean everything to me and this place means everything to me,” cattle farmer Josh Webster said.

Webster grew up in the hills of Bedford County, working the land just like his grandfather, father and uncle before him.

“I would like to keep it going, but it’s times like these that make it hard,” he said.

A drought is drying up the property, meaning less green grass for the cattle to eat.

In the last two months, Webster’s property near Montvale has only gotten about two tenths of an inch of rain. He is using hay earlier in the season than he wants and is quickly going through his supply, with the cattle eating about four bales a day.

“We have been feeding hay for two weeks; we normally aren’t feeding hay until November,” Webster said.

The hay is not growing as fast as the farm needs to keep up with the hungry heifers. Only a few green sprouts are poking through the dry dirt, making Webster question whether they will be able to harvest another round of hay.

“It’s like concrete. You can see everywhere the drill went,” he said.

Webster has already had to make some cuts to his herd to help his bottom line.

“My only option is, that if it doesn’t rain here soon, is to just sell all the cows,” he said.

Farming is a gamble and right now Mother Nature has the upper hand, but Webster said he isn’t ready to fold.

“We are going to keep doing what we are doing, we might have to cut back, we might have to sell cows, but we are not going to quit,” he said.

If Webster does have to sell his cattle for the season, he will then buy more back once conditions improve. However, if the drought impacts other farmers in the area, the value of his herd could fall.

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