Farmers, Ranchers In Southeast Oklahoma Struggle Through Drought

Friday, July 6th 2012, 7:58 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma is officially in a drought, and a lack of rain and dry conditions are making it a challenge for farmers and ranchers.

Southeastern Oklahoma has been hit especially hard.

Farmers and ranchers say record temperatures and a lack of rainfall could cause ripple effects all the way to your grocery bill.

The Denton Ranch in Corrine is hurting.

JD Denton has raised cattle in southeast Oklahoma since the 1960s, but this part of the state is in the middle of a drought. The area normally sees 16 inches of rain in the spring, but this year it's received 4 inches.

Denton's ranch shows the fallout—a brown pasture that would typically be lush green, trees that are slowly dying, and ponds with barely six inches of water.

"Well, I'm glad they have that much," Denton said.

Denton said the drought has forced him to use feeding troughs in the summer—something he hardly has had to do in the past. And that's just the beginning.

"It means that I have had to sell part of my capital assets to stay in business," Denton said. "I don't like to do that. It's either that, or watch the animals die."

Tom Smith, with the OSU extension office in Pushmataha County, said the drought is taking its toll on farmers and ranchers.

"It hurts everybody in this area. With less beef, beef prices are going to be higher," Smith said. "That means less forage production, thinner cows, less grass for them to eat, lower reproduction from those cows, less hay produced in this area."

This is the driest southeast Oklahoma has been since they started keeping records in 1921, and Smith said the closer you get to Texas and Arkansas, the worse it gets.

Smith said ranchers like Denton have tried everything, and all that's left to do now is hope for rain.

"They're predicting rain for early next week. We're praying it comes. Just as simple as that—hoping and hanging on and praying for rain," Smith said.

Smith said any farmer or rancher who's struggling with the drought can contact their local OSU extension office for tips and advice.