Published on 01/23/01

Farmers Struggling to Feed Georgia Cattle

From a distance, you'd think the cows in Wesley Fiveash's Crisp County pasture have plenty of green grass to eat. You'd be wrong. A closer look shows a serious problem that could get worse.

"It's dead," Fiveash says of the grass. "Nothing there. It's like eating a paper sack."

Photo: Joe Courson

Georgia cattle may have to go on strange diets, like pelletized citrus pulp from oranges and grapefruit, to make it through the harsh winter.
The bitter weather this winter concerns Fiveash and other Georgia cattlemen as they scramble to find enough food for their animals to eat this winter. "It's been the toughest year I've ever seen," he said.

The many days of subfreezing temperatures killed a big portion of his pasture -- grass he really counted on to feed his cows during the winter. "Even with good conditions," Fiveash said, "it won't produce but 50 percent of what it would have before the cold weather killed it back."

Creative Cattle Feeding

Fiveash, though, has been creative in finding ways to feed his cows. Besides feeding them all the hay he can find, he's trying something new: pulp from citrus farms in Florida. Leftover peel, seeds -- everything but the juice -- from oranges and grapefruits are put into pellet form to feed the cows.

If warmer weather doesn't come within the next four to six weeks, Georgia cattlemen will start selling their animals, said Robert Stewart, a cattle expert with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. They'll have to, he said, because the farmers won't have enough to feed them.

"They are not going to go hungry," Fiveash said of his cattle.

Stewart said last year's drought cut the state's hay production by about 25 percent, further complicating the problem. The best thing that could happen to for Fiveash and other cattlemen, he said, is for spring to spring early.