BLOUNTVILLE — A late freeze in early 2007, coupled with a drought throughout the summer and fall, meant local hay crops were off by as much as half their normal levels, according to a resolution presented to the Sullivan County Commission last week.
That wasn’t good news for Sullivan County’s cattle producers — or for the 33,000 head of cattle they’re currently trying to feed, according to the resolution.
That 33,000 figure includes 16,000 beef cattle, according to information provided by University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension agent Chris Ramsey.
And those cattle represent a significant potential impact on the economy.
Ramsey said the economic impact of that amount of cattle is more than $8 million dollars, based on current pricing on national markets — 93 cents per pound, on average, for a medium to large build in the 500- to 600-pound category.
Four county commissioners have proposed spending $50,000 of Sullivan County’s multi-million-dollar surplus to help cattle producers offset the cost of hauling hay into the county.
Commissioners Dwight King, Buddy King and Elliott Kilgore are sponsors of the measure, introduced on first reading during the commission’s Jan. 22 meeting.
The issue could come for a vote next month.
The proposal includes authorizing County Mayor Steve Godsey to appoint a “temporary committee,” including representatives of the UT Agriculture Extension Service, “to develop and oversee a program to assist in providing hay for county cattle farmers.”
It was amended during discussion Jan. 22 to authorize Godsey to appoint a “temporary committee” consisting of Godsey, Dwight King, Buddy King, Ramsey and Kevin Melvin, “to discuss the resolution.”
The resolution states:
•Local cattle producers are asking the people of Sullivan County to help with the cost of transporting hay “as an effort to help save the cattle industry in this county.”
•Numerous other counties in Tennessee have provided similar assistance.
•Following last year’s late freeze and long-term drought, local cattle producers “were faced with no pasture and had to feed their winter hay supply ... many sold their calves early in the fall and culled their cow herds.”
•The producers “are now at a point where they either sell out their herds or buy hay from the Midwest.”
•If the producers buy enough hay to carry them through the winter, “the calves they have sold will probably not cover the hay cost, otherwise they lose money or break even at best.”