Extreme drought increased its reach to 35.96 percent of Arkansas, up from just below 32 percent the last week of June, according to the July 5 U.S. Drought Monitor Map.

The state is so dry, the fire danger remains extreme in all 75 counties and burn bans have been enacted in 72 of the state’s 75 counties. Only Little River, Calhoun and Desha counties are without one.

All of Madison County, in the state’s northwest corner, is rated “severe,” the middle step the monitor’s drought ratings. Abnormally dry is the least intense. The more intense ratings are moderate, severe and extreme. “Exceptional” drought is the most intense of the drought categories.

Pastures that are nothing more than dirt and stubble is “what we’re seeing here,” said Darrin Henderson, Madison County Extension staff chair. “I don’t know what the cows are eating.

“With these 100-degree days and the wind blowing, it’ll take massive amounts of rain to really turn things around – maybe 5-6 inches over two weeks. Cattle producers also worry about how much of the forage is already dead, not dormant, and won’t come back. They’re in a tough spot.”

Many of the ranchers Henderson has spoken with have given up trying to find hay and are resigning themselves to having to sell their cows.

With so many others in the same boat, the flush of new cattle to sale, “could drive the price down,” he said. “If you want to try to buy them back in the spring, you may not be able to afford them.”

A new Extension fact sheet, “Be Aware and Prepare: Wildfires in Arkansas,” is now available from your county Extension office or is downloadable here.

 A map of counties with burn bans can be found here or call your sheriff’s department for burn ban information in your county.