Extreme drought conditions in northeastern Oklahoma hurting ranchers and farmers

TULSA, Okla. — Drought conditions in northeastern Oklahoma are wreaking havoc on crops and pastures used for grazing by cattle farmers.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates Rogers, Tulsa and Washington Counties are in extreme drought.

On Friday, Fox23 News spent time in Oolagah with Lyle Blakley, of Blakley Family Farms, who oversees about 700 head of cattle. Blakley said the lack of rain and heat has dried up ponds and the Bermuda grass, forcing him to move his cattle.

10:09 “Bermuda grass is our main forage,” the fifth generation farmer explained, “and this is one runner of Bermuda grass and typically in the fall these would be two to three feet long.”

He said by now, he would expect to lush green leaves. But there’s nothing typical about the dry and hot weather in Northeastern Oklahoma this fall.

The heat and lack of rain are drying up water sources used for cattle. Blakely owns 400 head of cattle depends on the pond in the pasture we visited to keep his cows hydrated.

He said he plans to move his cows to another pasture where there’s a deeper pond in about ten days.

“We’re having to move cattle from pasture to pasture either for grass or for water or both,” he explained.

Blakely said the heat has also impacted water quality, turning another pond on another piece of land a shade of green.

“This is an example of poor water quality,” he explained. “I moved these cattle about ten days ago.”

Fortunately, Blakley has not been forced to sell of any cattle yet, but that could change later this fall.

Farmer Tommy Salisbury of Salisbury Farms wasn’t as lucky; he ended up having to dig out a pond near his home in Collinsville in hopes that Mother Nature will eventually deliver some much needed rain, in the meantime he said he had to sell about 150 head of cattle.

“There’s no water or moisture so we’re digging them out to make them deeper, get out the silt out so that we can store more water for the cattle to drink,” Salisbury explained on Friday afternoon.

He also lost his 130-acre soybean crop in Vera after he said the field received only a little over three inches of rain since June 11th.

We asked him how he’s doing right now, to which he replied, “We’re in pretty bad shape,” he said, “we’re running out of water in our ponds for cattle, to winter cattle through, we don’t have any moisture in the ground to plant our wheat crop, and have us a crop in June to harvest, we lost our soy bean crop.”

Salisbury, who said he’ll try again next season, said his faith is helping him to get through this tough time right now.

“We’re just stewards of God’s land,” he said, “here you know, we try to make a living off of it.”

“We do the best with what we’re provided with,” he added, “yeah it can get depressing and everything else but there’s always next year.”

There is help available for farmers and ranchers. The Farm Service Agency, which serves Rogers and Tulsa Counties, is taking applications for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program or LFP. So far, nearly 500 applicants have expressed interest in assistance according to program tech Betsy Branen.

Those interested in applying to the Livestock Forage Disaster Program must first fill out the LFP survey.

The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish or ELAP, which is also funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offers help to farmers and ranchers have had to haul hay or water if ponds are dry. Those interested in that program must apply in person at the Farm Service Agency in Claremore.

They are located at 1900 W Will Rogers Boulevard in Claremore and can be reached by phone at (918) 341-3276.

The USDA website has information about both the ELAP and LFP programs.