Impacts of state drought reach SC State Fair agriculture

Impacts of state drought reach SC State Fair agriculture

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Nearly every county in South Carolina continues to experience drought conditions. This update coming after the state’s Drought Response Committee met this week to reevaluate the drought status of each county.

It’s something WIS-TV has been following over the last several months, as well as the drought’s effects on farmers. Now, some say the drought is also affecting farmers who show off livestock at the State Fair.

State Fair superintendent of livestock show, Tom Dobbins, says this year’s drought has caused several shortcomings for the 150th State Fair. He says, what it normally takes to put everything in place for livestock has been more challenging and more costly this year.

“We’re estimating, now, that we’re about 30% loss all across the state in production,” said Dobbins, who also serves as an associate dean and the director of the Cooperative Extension Service with Clemson University.

After meeting this week, the South Carolina Drought Response Committee has determined that of the state’s 46 counties, all but four of them are currently under some sort of drought status. The majority are experiencing “moderate” drought conditions, which are described as some damage to crops and pastures. Plus, a high fire risk.

SC Drought Status
SC Drought Status (Source: SCDNR)

When Superintendent Dobbins got the request to find enough hay for the fair this year, he says, “I, usually, can make one phone call and have him a truckload of hay delivered. This time, it took me four farmers to get a load of hay delivered to the State Fair for the animals. People who are usually relying on their pastures right now are already feeding their winter hay and so hay will become a huge issue on up into the year.”

Many farmers are already having to dip into their winter supply of hay according to Dobbins, and the recent drought report.

Because of low corn and soybean production this year, Dobbins also says it’s costing farmers more to feed livestock.

He says you may not notice a difference in livestock size this year, but it’s possible you could see a change at next year’s State Fair.

“It will become an economic decision. Do I feed her to keep her in great shape for the fair? Or, do I make sure she just maintains and then we’ll make a decision after that. So, I think that you are going to see smaller birth rates, because the cows just don’t have the nutrition that they usually have in feed. Hey, if you go across this state, you’ll see pastures that are usually lush this time of year – they’re just not there,” said the superintendent.

Dobbins says this won’t just affect livestock. This year’s drought could also mean smaller crops, during next year’s State Fair, like pumpkins and apples.

The Drought Response Committee held off on moving any counties to severe drought status because of this weekend’s expected rainfall.They are planning to reevaluate again, in two weeks.

Also in the recently released drought report, the Forestry Commission has responded to 127 wildfires that burned more than 780 acres. This is more than twice the number of wildfires for the month of October and about five times more acres burned, compared to five-year average numbers.

The persistent, below normal rainfall conditions have caused a steady drop in streamflow and lake levels.

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