Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks has warned that the cattle industry in Alabama continues to be in serious trouble due to drought related complications experienced in 2006.

The industry is at a highly critical stage because of shortages of both hay and alternative feed sources.

The shortage of hay is a result of no rain in May, June and July of 2006. No rain meant little or no hay to cut. The shortage has caused cattle producers in Alabama to purchase 97,000 more tons of supplemental feed this year for their cows compared to the same quarter in 2005.

Although there are other feeds for cattle, a cow must eat approximately 2 percent of its body weight in roughage (hay) daily to remain healthy. Even with the supplemental feed, most farmers still had to thin their herds, slaughtering 10,000 more brood cows in 2006 than in 2005.

“We have been meeting with Governor Riley and his office trying to determine the best solution for our cattle farmers,” said Sparks. “We are trying to locate farmers with extra hay, but so far none has been found in the Southeast region. We are also talking with our Congressional delegation about an assistance program. If we don’t get these folks some help, the cattle industry will take a hard hit, harder than they have experienced in many years.”

To help overcome the shortage, farmers are encouraged to do the following: Get nutrition advice from their local Extension service, have cattle graze in wooded areas, and extend their hay supply by limiting the amount being fed and supplementing with other feed such as pellets, corn gluten, soy hull pellets, and cottonseed.

Commissioner Sparks added that he and his staff are committed to finding assistance for Alabama’s cattle farmers and asks that anyone who has hay or alternative food sources to please call the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries at 1-334-240-7282