ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Area farmers rejoiced in unison this last week as varying bouts of rain finally descended from the skies above the Ohio Valley, providing some much needed moisture.
It's not a cure-all, however. Weeks and weeks of dry conditions have played havoc with area crop yields and livestock both.
While the damage has been far from irrecoverable from, it has been done.
Each area commercial farm, whether large or small in scale, has had to combat a unique set of problems not experienced by growers in this area in quite some time.
A perfect example is the effect the dry conditions has had on the corn yield from the Ebbert family farms.
Corn from Ebbert Farm market is an Ohio Valley summertime supper staple. Fortunately the Ebbert family thus far has been able to meet the demand. But extra ears are hard to come by.
"We have enough corn to meet our needs, but we haven't had any extra," Jerry Ebbert explained. "The most noticeable thing, for the customers, is the size of our ears has been a little bit smaller because of the conditions.
"What they don't see in the market is that out in the field, we're probably only harvesting about a third of what we'd normally harvest.
"A lot of the ears haven't pollinated or they are smaller because of the weather."
The corn has fared somewhat well thus far. Some of Ebbert's smaller produce crops haven't been as lucky.
Adding to the damage was the recent bout of humid weather which, when coupled with the dry temperatures, can spell doom for crop roots desperately scouring the soil for even the smallest drop of liquid nourishment.
"It's effecting everything. The heat, those real hot days we had, there was a lot of sun scald on the green peppers," Ebbert said. "A lot of the fruit was ruined because it was sunburnt.
"My wife and I have been doing this for 21 years and this is the driest we've seen it."
Another related complication is that of wildlife getting into the fields. Deer, groundhogs, raccoons and other animals are also seeing a drop in their edible vegetation because of the weather. Without an ample food source, they are turning to area crops with greater frequency, seeking out food.
Hay: Not just for horses
Ebbert's brother-in-low, Lowell Kemp, has a big beef operation nearby. Because of the effects on the grass, Ebbert said Kemp has been forced to feed his cattle a steady, all-hay diet since the beginning of July.
"He normally doesn't start that until maybe even December," Ebbert said.
Yes, the pasture grazing livestock are being effected as well by the conditions.
Nearby in Barnesville, the conditions aren't quite as bad for Darryl Dickinson of Dickinson Cattle Company.
Dickinson has a large operation and noted he has a few sizable pastures that have yet to be grazed. However, the grass growing in those pastures isn't in ideal conditions for this Texas Longhorns.
"We have really high producing grass in this area, but for it to be normal, it needs to rain every week or it dries out fast," Dickinson said. "The grasses here consume the moisture so fast. About half of our pastures have yet to have any grazing so there is standing grass about 2-feet tall.
"Except, the grass is not green, it's dead. It's just like they are eating hay. It's still (somewhat) nutritious and fills them up, but they don't like it."
The Ohio Valley and even the State of Ohio isn't alone in being forced to combat drought-like conditions.
Across the Midwest and Southwest, farmers and ranchers are fighting the same problems they are here locally.
That, more than anything else currently, is making like difficult for Dickinson.
"We sell a lot of cattle to Colorado and Missouri, Mississippi and Texas, California ... when it gets really dry in those areas, our phone doesn't ring and people don't buy cattle," Dickinson said. "When there is a drought, it destroys part of our business. A drought in Texas hurts just as much as a drought in Ohio."
Prices will likely rise
Corn prices have not taken a drastic rise in prices because of the dry conditions ... yet. Eric Rubel expects that will change soon.
Rubel is the owner of Crossroads Farm near Belmont, a 75-acre plot specializing in pasture-raised chickens, turkeys, lamb and beef.
"I can see a dramatic drop in crop yield which is going to effect feed prices," Rubel said. "Higher prices for corn and feed will lead to higher prices for a number of products across the board from eggs, meat and mil to fuel prices too.
"We now have to put a certain percentage of ethanol into each gallon of gasoline and that's going to have an impact.
"That will take even more corn away from food products. At the beginning, I was in favor of the move but the more I got to thinking about it, the less I was in favor."
Water is key
Water is also a need commodity for drinking for the animals. Dry temperatures mean farmers must keep a close watch on all natural sources like stream and springs.
Dickinson and Rubel both noted their sources of water, thus far, have been holding up well. The recent bout of rain will only bolster the steady flow.
However, for smaller animals, the placement of their water is just as important, if not more so, than the amount.
For Rubel's chickens, he uses large mobile pens to allow the hens to graze different spots of the pasture in combination with feed.
The first extremely hot day experienced locally, Rubel had gotten everything into position for the chickens before setting off for a funeral in Zanesville. He returned five hours later to a ghastly site.
"You want make sure they have shade and water and that's sometimes more difficult than it sounds," Rubel said. "I've been doing this for 15 or so years and I've never lost that many chickens at one time than I did that day.
"Out of around 320, I lost 56 and it was a matter of, where the water source was, it wasn't shaded and the chickens refused to go out into the heat to drink."
"We moved the feeders down to the bottom of the pen going forward so a combination of shade and moving the water source has done the trick."
Ebbert, Dickinson and Rubel, much like their local counterparts, have each had to combat their own set of challenges unique to their product and topography.
All seem hopeful the recent rash of rain will help alleviate some of the complications that have building throughout the relatively dry summer.
Hughes may be reached at email@example.com