GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Drought conditions are worsening across the Carolinas. The last measurable rain in our area was Oct. 14, with just three-quarters of an inch.
Now, an estimated 6.4 million North Carolinians are living under some kind of restrictions.
At Blackstone Ranch and Stables in Gastonia, green pastures are now brown because of the dry conditions. Owner Ryan Black — yes, that Ryan Black — raises horses and cows on 42 acres of land and the price to keep them is getting higher.
“This time last year, we had an excess amount of rain, and now everything’s just so dry,” Black said. “Now that we’ve had a drought, we’re not going to have any hay and more so into this winter in the spring, We’re going to be getting hit pretty hard; prices will probably double.”
The depletion of water causes declines in crops and livestock productivity.
“It affects a lot of things, and some people would never even imagine all the effects that has on your farms and ranches and livestock, all the way down to your expenses,” Black said. “And the holiday season is coming up.”
The drought combined with dry vegetation increases the threat of wildfires. There are burn bans across the western third of North Carolina, which limits Black’s ability to perform normal duties of clearing the land. He has also wasted supplies.
“We normally fertilize back in September. October was so dry,” Black said. “It hasn’t penetrated. It hasn’t took to the soil. So if you do fertilizer, you just kind of lost all that.”
While caring for his herd and tending to his land, he’s thinking of his farmer friends who raise crops.
“I have a handful of horses I could possibly move and sell them to take in some income,” Black said. “Whereas the crops you know, they’re getting hit pretty hard, and it affects them longer.”
At his ranch Black is preparing for the worst but praying for the best.
“We just monitor what we have,” Black said. “We tried not to add a lot of animals to the bill, and we try to stock up on hay while we can. You know, we just plan for it to be worse and then if it gets better, we’ll be happy about that, but all we can do is ride it out. You know, that’s about best we can do.”
Farmers pay close attention to the drought monitor to help them plan out the future and try to avoid as much economic losses as possible.