Editor’s Note: This is the last of two parts in a series about how farmers are recovering from the April 27 storms. See part 1 in link at right.
The average Limestone Countian may enjoy a good hamburger or steak from time to time, but it’s easy to take the source for granted.
Raising cattle isn’t exactly easy work, and some of the county’s cattle farmers have worked harder than ever following the April 27 tornadoes.
The storms took a toll on the farming community as a whole, damaging wheat and littering fields with debris from as much as hundreds of miles away. It also claimed 14 heads of cattle.
Daveen Stanford of the Limestone County Cattlemen’s Association said in addition to the dead cattle, some fences were knocked down. She said farmers were lucky to have lost so few cows considering the amount of damage across the county — more than 700 homes were hit, 500 utility poles were felled, and countless businesses and outbuildings were damaged.
“Most of these cattle farmers have been raising cattle for so long, they don’t know any other way of life,” she said. “They don’t just do it for a living, they do it because they enjoy doing it.”
While cattle farming may have its rewards, it can also be expensive. Because grain prices have risen sharply over the past two years, and because it can take up to eight pounds of grain to produce a pound of beef, farmers in Alabama and across the U.S. have seen profit margins dwindle.
The week the EF5 tornado swept through Limestone County, the price of live cattle on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was listed at $1.17 a pound, which is the average price of what a steer or cow would sell for at some future date.
Cattle farmer Bobby Joe Balch, whose farm is located on Nick Davis Road across from Limestone Correctional Facility in Capshaw, lost five cows and his prized maple shorthorn bull.
“I replaced the bull, but I haven’t replaced the cattle,” he said. “That was my good bull.”
Balch was on his property this week in the July heat repairing fencing knocked down in the storm. He said though he still has a lot of fence to fix, he’s been helped tremendously by the Cattlemen’s Association and church groups, one of which came from Columbia, Tenn.
“I’m 71 years old, so they’ve helped me out quite a bit,” he said. “It’s not going to take me too long (to fix the fencing), but as far as replacing it all, I’ll never get that done.”
Farmers who still have fence in need of repair may be helped out by a gift from the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, which donated Jake’s Wire Tighteners to the Limestone County branch.
“It’s a very simple little device, and it really tightens those fence wires back up easily,” Stanford said.
Shane Seay of the Limestone County Farm Service Agency said three farmers lost cattle in the storm, and all had filed applications with his office for storm relief.
“We had several reports of cows injured that are going to live,” he said, adding that the three producers who lost cattle were in East Limestone.
Stanford wanted to thank workers and road crews who helped dispose of dead cows following the tornadoes.
“What they did, it was just outstanding,” she said.
Balch said the farming community as a whole was impacted by the tornadoes, but he anticipates a strong rebound.
“It’s all coming together,” he said. “It just takes a little time.”