Intense Heat, Lack of Rain Takes Toll

Intense Heat, Lack of Rain Takes Toll

Farmers across southern Wisconsin need rain now to save parched crops.

Farmers across southern Wisconsin have grown weary of the hot, dry weather that has plagued the 2012 growing season from May through the first two weeks of July. Most are looking for relief from the intense heat and drought.

That includes Campbellsport dairy farmer Jim Senn who farms 770 acres and milks 307 cows with his wife Deb in southeastern Fond du Lac County.

"To put it quite simply, we need rain," Senn says, wiping sweat from his brow on a sticky July afternoon that saw temperatures hover near 100 degrees.

Like most farmers in southern Wisconsin, the Senns have seen little rain at their farm this growing season.

UNEVEN CORN: Later planted corn at Jim Senn's farm near Campbellsport came up uneven due to a lack of rain in May, June and July.

 "We got an inch and a half of rain the first week of May, and then we got very little after that," Senn says.

The Senns only had an inch and a half of rain between May 7 and July 8.

Signs of stress

The hot, dry weather has taken a toll on their crops.

"I see a lot of corn curling, especially in the afternoon. In the mornings, it looks OK, but by afternoon it's rolling even on the flat areas. The knolls are worse."

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While his earlier planted corn is holding its own, Senn says his later planted corn did not come up evenly.

"Some of the later planted corn is 18 inches tall and some of it is only 5 inches tall all in the same row. It's very uneven."

The Senns soybeans have fared even worse.

"I planted 50 acres of soybeans the last week of May and half the field didn't come up," he explains. "The further up the hill the worse it gets. My agronomist dug up bean after bean that never germinated because it was so dry."

Alfalfa yields have also taken a hit, he reports.

WITHERING CROPS: Campbellsport dairy farmer Jim Senn is hoping rain arrives before his corn starts tasseling. Senn farms 770 acres and milks 307 cows in southeastern Fond du Lac County.

"Our first crop alfalfa (harvested the middle of May) wasn't a bin buster, but it was decent. Our second crop was surprisingly good except on the knolls," he says. "But there won't be much third crop. It will be a lot of driving for nothing if we don't get some rain soon."

Senn estimates that his oats and peas yielded only 60% to 70% of normal.

In addition to dealing with the hot, dry weather, Senn says he's been fighting bugs in his alfalfa, too.

"It's the first year since 1977 that we've had to spray for alfalfa weevils," the 58 year old farmer says. "We've had to spray for leaf hoppers in past years, but this year we had to spray for alfalfa weevils after we took first crop off."

On a good note, Senn says thanks to fans and misters in his freestall barns, "Our milk production has yet to suffer."

He says keeping busy keeps him from worrying about the weather.

SPIKING CORN: Orfordville dairy farmer Gary Strunz tries to unroll a leaf on a corn plant in a field of corn planted in mid-April. Strunz farms 340 acres and milks 140 cows with his brother Joe in western Rock County.

 "When you farm you are an eternal optimistic," Senn says. "If you aren't you wouldn't be doing this. I've come to the conclusion you control what you can control and you deal with the rest. It does no good to worry about whether it's going to rain or not because the weather is not controllable."

He admits, this year has been a challenge.

"It always is. My banker says if farming was easy, everyone would be doing it."

Hanging in there

Orfordville dairy farmer Gary Strunz says he is still hopeful it will rain soon, but he admits, it gets tougher every day.

Strunz, 51, farms 340 acres and milks 140 cows in western Rock County with his younger brother Joe. The brothers grow 172 acres of corn, 145 acres of alfalfa and 27 acres of soybeans.

"It's been hot and dry here," he says. "We only had about 2 inches of rain in May and June and none so far in July."

On June 29, Strunz watched as a promising storm went south of their farm dumping more than an inch of rain on parched fields in Illinois.

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"We only got a tenth of an inch," Strunz says. "It was enough to settle the dust and that's about it. I thought for sure we'd get more because I could see the lightning and hear thunder. I guess every little bit helps, we just hope we get more soon."

Things got off to a good start. Strunz planted 60 acres of silage corn on April 18 and 19.

"On May 4, we took off 15 acres of ryelage and then we planted 30 more acres of corn on May 5. We got a half an inch of rain on May 6."

After planting 120 acres of corn for the neighbor, and harvesting first crop alfalfa, the brothers finished planting corn on May 19.

"Our first crop hay yield was good," Strunz says. "We had alfalfa weevils, so we fertilized and sprayed at the same time."

They finished harvesting second crop alfalfa on June 22.

"Second crop was decent but was less than normal," he says. "Third crop doesn't look very promising."

Strunz says while he's concerned about the drought, he's not worrying yet.

"I let my brother worry about it," he says. "You can't do anything about the weather. If it doesn't rain before the corn tassels, then I'll start worrying.  

TAGS: USDA Soybean
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