WARM WINTER WORRIES PEACH PRODUCERS, GOOD NEWS FOR POULTRY FARMERS AND CATTLE RANCHERS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama poultry farmers and cattle ranchers are enjoying one of the state’s mildest winters in nearly a half-century, but the warm weather has some peach farmers wishing for a little more chill in the air.
|Federation Horticulture Director Mac Higginbotham examines peaches late last year on a Chilton County farm.|
Peach producers are watching their calendars and the thermometer, hoping temperatures will drop and give their crop the required amount of cold needed to make the best peaches.
“Peach trees need a certain number of chill hours between October and February,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Horticulture Director Mac Higginbotham. “If warm weather causes the trees to bloom too soon, it could put them at risk if a late frost occurs. Trees that produce late-season peach varieties need the most chill hours and also could be at risk.”
Peaches typically need 800-1,000 hours in temperatures below 45 degrees, depending on the variety and the time of year they mature.
In contrast, the state’s warmer winter has been a blessing for Alabama poultry farmers who represent the state’s largest industry with an estimated economic impact of $10.9 billion.
“Propane gas used to heat poultry houses is the single largest expense poultry farmers face each year,” said Federation Poultry Director Guy Hall. “The mild winter has helped them save money, but the gas they have purchased cost more than in years past.”
Hall said propane consumption for some poultry farms might be as much as one-third less than previous years. Because of the price, however, which has increased as much as 50-cents per gallon in the past two years, the farmers’ total fuel bill may be about the same.
Beef cattle are thriving in the mild winter as well.
“Cattle farmers are feeding less hay and enjoying strong stands of winter grazing forages because of the mild winter,” said Federation Beef Director Nate Jaeger. “That’s fortunate because had last year’s long, wet and cold winter been repeated, hay supplies would have been very, very tight, especially with the increased demand from drought stricken Texas and Oklahoma.”
Jaeger said cattle farmers should take advantage of the weather to establish strong hay and forage stands this spring in case dry weather returns this summer.
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecasts above-normal temperatures through the end of April for Alabama and the Southeast.