ELLERBE — The recent prolonged cold has created significant difficulties for some area farmers.
And that was before the snow came.
“I’ve got a friend … who goes out to the pond with a mallet to bust the pond so his horses can drink,” said Chris Yaklin of Ellerbe, who raises chickens, pigs and cows at his Mountain Creek Farms.
Inside their barns or chicken houses, his animals can huddle against one another for warmth. Even in the winter, Yaklin said Friday, he sometimes has to cool his chickens.
Yaklin’s cows have outside troughs geared to keep flowing during the cold.
But this week, Yaklin has had water trouble inside his buildings. The pipes keep bursting, making it difficult to water the animals. And his office has been plagued by leaks.
“You’re not prepared for this many days of cold at one time,” Yaklin said. “It lets you know where you don’t have enough insulation.”
Yaklin said the cold was especially difficult for newborn livestock.
He was lucky, he said, to find a new calf. If he hadn’t, the animal would not have been bottle fed and likely would have died.
Strawberry farmer Lee Berry of Ellerbe said he had seen farms with blankets laid atop the berry furrows. He hasn’t done that, he said.
“I’ve seen fields that were covered, (but) a blanket’s only good for 4 or 5 degrees” and may make no real difference.
“These are some of the coldest temperatures I’ve ever seen … in 21 years” of farming, he said.
Berry hopes that his plants, which lapsed into dormancy before the snowfall, will weather the cold since they’d already been “put to sleep.” But he knows the weather will have some effect, and “I’m sure it’s not good.”
Berry also has two greenhouses sheltering 500 tomato plants. Those, he said, have been “sucking up the gas” for heat.
He estimated he would spend as much on gas heat for his crops in the past couple of weeks as he had spent from the start of November until the cold snap.
But, he said, “that’s the life of a farmer.”
At the time of the 2012 federal Census of Agriculture, Richmond County had 277 farms comprising nearly 48,000 acres, about half of the land dedicated to crops.
Poultry and eggs are the biggest cash producers, followed remotely by hogs and pigs.
Area farmers also produce grains, fruits and berries, and vegetables.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]