AmericanFarm.com

SW Virginia dry weather becoming a real drought

By JANE W. GRAHAM
AFP Correspondent

PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (July 15, 2014) — Summer weather in Southwest Virginia seems to be competing with the winter for the title of “How Weird Can It Get?” as dry weather spreads across the area southwest of Roanoke.
The National Weather Service reports Pulaski County in the heart of the New River Valley is the hardest hit as of July 10.
Adjoining Montgomery County is close behind.
Peter Corrigan of the National Weather Service station in Blacksburg, Va., said the National Drought Monitor recently release that changed the expansion of the monitor’s designation from dryer than normal to moderate drought reflected the dryness in the area.
Some counties in the far southwest remained in the moderate drought designation.
The upgrading to the drought designation reflects the dryness, Corrigan said.
He said the rain that has fallen has come from hit-or-miss rainfall with some areas getting good rain and others getting none.
Jim Politis, a member of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, described the rains as “two-minute blasts.”
He said hay and pastures are short in his county and said at least one livestock operation that is now feeding hay to its animals.
“Everyone is concerned,” Scott McElfresh, the Extension agent in this county, said. “Things are getting pretty hard.”
He said farmers who depend on forage are being hit the hardest and that some people are already starting to cull their herds and sell cows.
Blair Sanders of Black Hollow Dairy is one of these.
He and his wife Kim operate a seasonal pasture based dairy and are down sizing their milking herd, Sanders reported.
He said they have advertized the cows for sale.
They plan to wait a month before making a decision about whether or not to liquidate the milking herd and see if they have enough hay to get their yearling heifers through the winter.
He traces the problems to the extreme winter that went on for months.
He said a hard freeze in January took what moisture that was in the ground away.
Workers on a nearby farm reported that in March when they were digging post holes they did not hit moist soil, McElfresh said.
He noted the corn is beginning to be affected as well as pastures. Both corn and soybeans were late being planted here and are behind the norm.
Corrigan reported that Pulaski County, during the last 60 days, has gotten 50 percent less than the norm at the cooperative reporting station serving the county.
It is located in a central area east of the Town of Pulaski, he indicated.
He said cthe ounty received 1.7 inches of rain at the station in June which normally gets 3.5 inches.
In May it reported 1.83 inches compared to a norm of about four inches.
Rural residents and members of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are noticing the dry weather is affecting wild life as well as domestic animals.
Folks are spotting large numbers of thin deer, many doe with smaller than usual fawns.
One DGIF member said the doe are dropping fawns later and they are smaller.
Lack of pasture is forcing the deer to graze more along roadsides where livestock does not graze, adding to the danger of deer-vehicle collisions.
Corrigan offered a slight glimmer of hope.
He said there is a very minor indication the next two weeks will be wetter than normal in the area, but stressed it is a slight possibility.