Too much rain takes toll on East Tennessee farms

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RUTLEDGE, Tenn. - (WVLT) "That's always the first thing out of anybody's mouth," said UT Extension Agent John Goddard, "you got any mud at your place?" Goddard said a rainy, wet winter has caused headaches for farmers all over East Tennessee. Goddard advises farmers in Loudon County.

Goddard said simply getting around the farm can be a challenge and a danger for tractor drivers maneuvering hills. "Definitely more dangerous to the tractor driver and the animals as well. You can run over or slide over a cow or drop a bale of hay on a calf."

Grainger County farmer Matt England said driving through mud is typical now for him with his John Deere. To get from his barn to a feeding spot for calves atop a hill, he drives through muddy ruts at least a foot deep. "Seems like we've had a lot more rain, all at once," said England.

Goddard said all farmers are watching out for foot rot now in livestock. It's a disease that happens when animals' feet and hooves stay wet. "It's a huge problem with small ruminants, goats and sheep in particular. If their feet stay wet, they'll get foot rot or sore foot. We're experiencing more cases of foot rot in dairy and beef cattle as well just because the fungus gets in there, it's a great place for it to grow, and it never has a chance to dry out."

England said he is monitoring for foot rot, but so far has been able to avoid it in his herd. This follows a winter of both cold and milder days, when sometimes the changeable weather seemed to predispose some calves to breathing challenges. He said he had to keep a close watch on calves through the wet winter.

Goddard said the wet conditions so far this year could also delay farmers' ability to fertilize fields and plant their earliest crops. "Specifically our clovers and some of our fescues and oats. But we can't get out in the field right now and put those things in."

"It's just a muddy mess," said England.