Saturday, July 31, 1999

Heat hurts animals, crops

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Butch Schappacher pauses to examine his parched field as cows cluster under nearby shade.
(Michael Snyder photos)
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        MASON — He has been a farmer all his life, but Butch Schappacher is seeing unusual sights during this summer of heat and drought.

        Ducks fruitlessly poke about in his Warren County farm's dried pond, while the cattle that used to drink from it hide from blazing sunshine in the shade of nearby woods.

        He watches his cattle make their daily trek to the woods through a pasture that is usually rich with green grass this time of year but now is brown and parched.

        Corn is drying up and the heat also has blooms falling from his green bean plants.

        For Tristate farmers, each day without rain but with temperatures around three digits means added hardships. Besides the long-term impacts on this year's crops, there are daily impacts as they simply try to keep up normal farm operations.

        When he picks still-healthy sweet corn by hand he must kneel in cornfields where stalks cut any wind, raising the air temperature well above 100 degrees.

        “It gets so hot in that field. I start early and try to get it done by 8 a.m.,” said Mr. Schappacher, already tired during a Friday morning break from his chores.

Schappacher's sweet corn struggles to grow in the brutal heat.
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        In the barn's hay loft a thermometer shows the temperature is 110 degrees — before noon.

        He makes about three trips a day to a municipal tap to bring back 1,000 gallons of water essential for keeping his wilting crops and suffering cattle alive.

        “I usually don't have to haul water. The pond usually holds water all summer,” he said.

        “We have 25 head of cattle and they drink about 1,000 gallons of water a day. They're big animals and they have calves and the calves are drinking milk from them so they need a lot of water,” he said.

        It's one of the worst heat waves he has ever experienced, and even if rains and cooler temperatures are soon forthcoming, it'll be too late for many of his crops.

        His wife, Sherry, who helps work almost 500 acres of farmland near Mason's northern city border, said “everything will have a low yield this season.”

        Warren County is among the 39 Ohio counties from which Gov. Bob Taft has asked the U.S. Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency in Ohio to begin gathering farm damage assessments. The data would be used if the federal government makes disaster help available to farmers.

        “The drought is causing tremendous financial hardship for many farmers in Ohio,” Mr. Taft said in a statement released earlier this week. “The drought has caused irreparable crop and pasture damage ... the state must do everything it can to help affected farmers.

Schappacher climbs over a fence around his dried-out pond.
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        “Many farmers in Ohio are not only suffering from drought problems but have the specter of record low prices facing them at harvest this fall,” Mr. Taft said in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. “Many farmers are being forced to feed hay, haul water, abandon crops for livestock feed and sell off livestock prematurely because of feed and water shortages.”

        The state has set up a toll-free phone number (800-282-1955) to link hay suppliers to Ohio livestock producers.

        The state also is allowing water to be taken from more than 150 state lakes and reservoirs for emergency livestock use, firefighting and community water systems.

        Butler County is also on the governor's list of drought-stricken counties — as are Hamilton, Clermont, Adams, Greene, Montgomery, Preble and Clinton counties — and it has been where the Garver family has farmed for two generations.

        Sue Garver spent most of Friday worrying about her 61-year-old husband Bob, who was out in the heat baling straw. She has helped her husband work their 300-acre farm just west of Monroe for the last 41 years.

        She is grateful that Ohio's governor is taking action to try and ease hardships for stricken farmers but is irritated by some residents and businesses in nearby suburban communities that ignore pleas to curtail watering during the drought.

        “I think it's about time people wake up and start to appreciate the American farmer,” she said, adding that she shops only those area businesses that have obviously adhered to watering bans.

        “I respect businesses with brown lawns more than I do those with green lawns,” she said.

        She describes this dry summer as “terrible” and said “the crops are really beginning to show the stress. They don't look like they're going to produce much at all.”

        The Garvers also are raising 400 baby pigs, which are averaging about 60 to 70 pounds each, but when mature will weigh as much as 230 pounds. The pigs require extensive watering, which so far the Garvers' cistern and well-water systems have been able to accommodate.

        Mrs. Garver said the relatively young age and size of the pigs are probably what's keeping them alive in the oppressive heat.

        “If they were fat pigs, we'd be losing some,” she said.

City roasts in 101 heat
Sweat rolls on city from dawn to dusk
- Heat hurts animals, crops
Heat harder on those who are homeless
How to avoid heat-related illness
Tips on staying cool
Get help from the heat
How to conserve energy
Public pools
5-day forecast

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