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Drought Affects Local Farmers

The recent spike in temperatures here in the Ozarks, paired with a lack of rain over the last 12 to 18 months, has local farmers concerned.  Dry conditions are causing a shortage feed for livestock, and may reduce certain crops this season. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann talked with farm specialists and has this report.

The hay harvest is down considerably this year compared with normal seasons.  Local farmers have seen their pastures stop growing after this season’s first cutting. This is causing many farmers to be faced with tough choices if we don’t see any rain soon.  Kelly Smith is a spokesperson for the Missouri Farm Bureau.  He reminds us that what we are experiencing now, in part, is due to similar problems last year.

 “We started this year out dryer than normal simply because of the drought from last year.  And that’s one thing people need to remember, therefore we have not so much sub swell moisture starting this year.  We’ve also had warmer than normal temperatures through the winter, and not as much rainfall through the winter as well,” says Smith.

Smith says that each farm situation is different and that livestock farmers need to assess and adjust their numbers accordingly.  He says that the lack of rain not only affects the hay production, but also critical water sources in pastures like ponds and streams. Smith says other crops are also being affected.

 “Crop farmers are being affected as well.  We are going into the time of the season when corn is tasseling and pollenating.  We need probably cooler, cloudier days with some moisture.  Without the weather cooperating on that, we could start to see a reduction in our corn crop,” Smith says.

Eldon Cole is a livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension office.  He says there are some things that farmers can do besides reducing their herds including adding supplements to livestock feed, and ensuring adequate water and shade.

 “We can do some early weaning of calves.  If you had calves born in the February-March period, or even the early part of April, they’re big enough now they can go on their own with proper care,” Cole says.

Cole explains that cows do not eat as much when they no longer have to produce milk for calves.

Cole says that many farmers are worried because they came through this same drought situation last year and it was tough for them to find forage then. He says farmers are evaluating whether they can afford to buy supplemental feed that is a little more expensive, or if they have to begin reducing their herds.

 “The good thing is the cattle market is pretty favorable right now.  So if a beef producer does have to sell off some of his lower-value stock, they’re still going to bring pretty good money,” says Cole.

Cole says he feels Missouri farmers are resilient, and will find a way to hang-in-there.  For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.