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Cattle dying, crops withering in drought

Staff writer

Cattle were dying of heat, wheat yields were significantly reduced, and row crops were in danger as drought continues to grip Marion County.

Despite a half-inch of rain Saturday and one to two inches June 20, rainfall hasn’t been sufficient to provide subsoil moisture, which is still nonexistent from prolonged drought.

Marion County is at the center of a small band of “extreme drought,” with both short and long term implications, according to the government’s Drought Monitor reports released last week.

Unless there are continued substantial rains, plant roots won’t find moisture to sustain them.

“Corn got a boost from the rain, but we’re going to need a lot more to bring it to harvest,” said agronomist Jeff Haysmith of Cooperative Grain and Supply. “The rain is sustaining the crop for now. A lot of corn is pollinating or has just completed pollinating. It’s too early to tell how it will turn out.”

Anthony Schilling, agronomist with Agri Trails Co-op, which serves farmers around Lincolnville and Tampa, said corn conditions around Tampa varied.

“North of Tampa, the crop is dying or dead, but at Tampa and south a few miles, it looks better,” he said. “The later-planted corn looks better, but the crop will be significantly down.”

Soybeans, bolstered by recent small rains, are in “very good” condition, he said.

“There’s no subsoil moisture, so we’ll have to have above-average precipitation the next month and a half to produce a crop,” he said. “The extended outlook shows hot and dry.”

Schilling said farmers were hoping for rain to sustain the crop a while longer.

He said the co-op was still planting double-crop beans as well as millet, sedan, and forage sorghum for farmers.

Cattle dying of heat

Cattle in feedlots are suffering from extreme heat. Mike Beneke of rural Lincolnville had lost 12 head as of last Thursday and was expecting more losses because of consecutive days of 100-degree temperatures.

“Ideally, the temperature has to drop below 70 degrees at night for cattle to cool down,” he said. “Last night, it was in the mid-80s in the middle of the night, so their core temperature didn’t go down.”

He raises corn and silage for feed, and both are stressed. Brome hay yielded one-third of normal.

“My hired hand doesn’t like the heat, and I don’t either,” Beneke said. “I hope my water wells will hold out.”

Wheat yields way down

The drought has been ongoing since February and, as was expected, wheat bushels were down this year.

The Marion location of Cooperative Grain and Supply took in 353,000 bushels, about 70 percent of last year’s receipts, according to manager John Ottensmeier.

Yields ranged from 5 to 65 bushels per acre, with variances in both bottomland fields and upland fields.

“It was quite shocking to farmers,” Ottensmeier said. “Fields they thought would do well were poor, and other fields did better than expected.”

The test weight averaged 59 pounds per bushel, slightly below a full weight of 60.

The Hillsboro elevator took in 564,000 bushels, about 80 percent of last year’s total. Grain coordinator Dick Tippin said fields south of town yielded better than those to the north. Yields varied from 20 to 60 bushels per acre with average test weights of 59.

Agri Trails Co-op elevators at Tampa, Lincolnville, and Durham took in 1,108,000 bushels, or about half of last year’s receipts.

Altogether, Agri Trails, with 12 locations, took in 3.4 million bushels compared to 7 million last year.

Tampa elevator manager Roger Will said most fields around Tampa yielded 15 to 25 bushels per acre, and some yielded 35 to 40. Test weights were “not as terrible as expected,” he said, with an average of 56 pounds per bushel.

“With timely rains, we could have a big bean harvest,” he said, “but we may see a lot of corn going for silage.”

Last modified July 3, 2018

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