It’s dry. Bone dry. The kind of dry that I remember from my childhood when the jimson weed leaves were curled, the grass crispy, and it hurt my nose to breathe in the hot air.
Some farmers I know have chopped their corn for silage. Others have given up their soybean crop for dead and baled it to save what they could. Cattlemen have re-installed the bale forks that came off of their pick-ups once the spring rains turned the grass green. Scorched pastures have forced many neighbors to feed big round bales of hay to their cow herds and supplement their rations with extra grain.
The streams are dry. You can walk across the creek bed without getting your feet wet. The big old Sycamore trees along our lane are shedding bark and large dead leaves.
Some of our friends and neighbors have started to sell off a few cows here and there to take the pressure off. Still others are continuing last year’s ritual of hauling water from municipal supplies to their livestock operations because of low water levels in ponds and streams. Brownfield’s livestock market reporter said this about Missouri cash cattle trade last week:
“Trucking and transportation of feeders has become a problematic issue as buyers are dealing with many unweaned and unworked calves which are highly susceptible to the added stress of high temperatures. The lack of moisture and triple digit temperatures continue to force more cattle to auctions around the state especially in the south central and southeast areas of the state. Not only have producers been marketing calves early but many are also liquidating breeding stock.”
According to USDA’s annual planting report out last Friday, farmers in this country planted more corn and soybean acres than they had planned and slightly more than analysts were expecting. It has been 75 years since growers planted so many acres of corn. Farmers also planted the third-largest amount of soybeans on record. But so many acres of seed in the ground will not guarantee a bumper crop. As a matter of fact, one analyst proclaimed, “Weather trumps the report.”
As I pen this column, there is only a slight chance of rain across the Midwest over the next few days. The temperatures yesterday in my neck of the woods reached 107 and there’s not much relief in sight, unless you consider the high 90’s we are supposed to get at weeks end, a reprieve. I know that many of you are facing similar – or worse – challenging conditions.
Many farmers today are armed with a toolbox full of new hybrids, pesticides, herbicides, tillage equipment, the best fly control and nutritional plans for your livestock, computer programs designed for precision application of herbicides, fertilizer and pesticides. GPS can be used for field mapping, soil sampling, farm planning, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications, and yield mapping.
Yet still we are unable to control the one factor that has the most impact on our livelihood: Weather.