Heat, dry weather affect local farmers

It’s no secret. It’s hot outside.

Has been.

Is.

Will continue to be for at least a few more days.

While folk throughout the area struggle to keep their cool ... literally ... farmers in Mecosta and Osceola counties are getting hit with a mixed bag of blessings.

A little bit good. A little bit not so good.

Just as the heat was beginning to take its toll on plants and animals, some providential rains fell in reasonable amounts throughout the area. While this helped a lot – especially in corn fields, the heat spell that followed has not be a boon to most farmers.

“It’s hot, and the heat is stressing agriculture almost across the board,” reported MSU Extension educator and grazing specialist Jerry Lindquist.

“Luckily, just before the big heat hit, we received some decent rains across the area. Most areas have received at least an inch of rainfall lately, and that has certainly relieved us of what could have become a drought situation.”

Combine the very dry weather over the past couple weeks with the most recent heat spell and things could have been much worse.

“There actually wasn’t much second cutting hay showing up on the market, and the heat was really affecting yields,” noted Lindquist. “The rains we did receive got us back on track so that hay could start growing again.

“Depending on first cutting timings, this weather pattern could be a problem, or work out well. It really depends what the farmers did earlier in the season.

“Someone who is cutting hay next week will see lower yields, but they may enjoy a better third cutting.

“Also, while the quantity of hay being cut is lower than normal, the quality is adequate and even a little above average.

“Whatever the case, local farms are running about 25 percent below normal for this time of year.”

Lindquist pointed out that the quantity and quality of pasture grazing material is also being affected by the weather – but in a more positive way.

With even the little bit of rain that has fallen in the Mecosta-Osceola area, pastures are “greening up” and grazing animals have plenty to eat – if they want to eat.

“There should  be additional growth that occurs as a result of the rain, but the heat is certainly not helping the situation,” he said. “Most of our grasses are cool weather varieties. They just don’t do well with the hot weather.

“The last 10-day period has been tough on pasture grasses, but the rain certainly has helped.”

Lindquist noted that both pasture and dairy lot animals have been having a tough time of it over the past few days.

Heat stress has affected animals of every variety and size – sheep, swine, dairy cows, and beef cattle – and they mostly just want to find a shady spot and lay down.

“They rest a lot more and eat a lot less,” noted Lindquist. “Animals simply don’t perform well in this kind of weather.

“As a result, they don’t produce as much milk, and they don’t gain as much weight comparable to other periods of time.

“This heat is definitely affecting our dairy production. Interesting enough, this could be a good thing. Up until now, there has been a surplus of milk and dairy prices have been dropping.

“This heat has affected dairies across the country. The milk surplus is disappearing so milk prices for farmers should be increasing ... theoretically.”

Corn throughout the area is looking good. There had been the beginnings of a little stress and wilt, but now the situation is turning and most corn fields are showing strong growth.

“Corn has really surged,’ said Lindquist. “It enjoys the heat and the rains we had recently were just substantial enough to give it a real push.

“There was a little bit of wilt setting in last weekend, but then we got some decent rain and the plants really responded.

“We have corn that is between chest and head-high.”

Lindquist says what is now needed is another good shot of rain. Farmers don’t need an extended hot spell with no moisture.

“A little less heat could certainly help the animals and plants,” he pointed out.

“A little less heat would also be a good thing for most people living in this area.

“It has certainly been uncomfortable.”