Farmers feeling the effects of the ongoing drought
by Trinity Gruenberg
The intense heat and lack of rain have left the state in a severe drought. Creeks are drying up and lawns turning brown. Farmers across the area are very much affected by the ongoing conditions.
Several area farmers and ag-related professionals discussed the issues the agriculture industry is facing because of the lack of moisture.
Craig Neal of rural Verndale works alongside his brother Chris managing their crop and beef operation.
“We don’t know if we’ll have enough pasture to get through the grazing season,” said Neal.
With most of the grass growth occurring from May into June, that is long gone. His cattle have been sticking to the low meadow ground eating what they can find. Some of his 100 head of Angus cross beef cattle were never put out to pasture and were fed in a dry lot.
Not only is the grass scarce in the pasture, but hay has also become another issue with its growth limited and the cost constantly increasing.
Having hay hauled in is also expensive. Neal explained beef cattle are versatile and can eat lower quality feed as long as it is mixed with something of higher quality so the cattle receive protein and energy. Straw and corn stocks can be fed as an option, as long as there is also hay and extra minerals available.
Neal has 1100 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and small grains such as oats. While his irrigated crops are doing well, the extreme heat has been stressing the water supply on the pivots.
The non-irrigated areas are what they use to produce feed for the cattle. He expects the silage tonnage to also be reduced this year.
Farmers pumping water from pits and lagoons may face water shortages if nothing changes with the weather soon. The light, sandy soil in the area also does not hold moisture.
Neal explained that other farmers felt this season was similar to that of the summer of 1988 and conditions are deteriorating quickly with the heat and dry weather. . .