July 5, 2013
Soggy farms drying out
Wet June, Monday’s rain impacts hay, corn, other crops
TRUXTON — Monday’s downpour on top of fields already wet from a rainy June means delayed hay cuttings for local farmers, some of whom now have to dip into feed reserves that would otherwise be saved until the winter. Submerged crops are another problem forcing farmers to face potential losses.
Fields are too wet to get machinery on at Mac-Mara Holsteins farm in Marathon, said Syd McEvoy, whose brother Ken and sister-in-law Lydia own the 70-head dairy farm.
The Route 11 farm is near the Tioughnioga River, and when the river floods it covers the bordering hay fields, he said.
“It just puts everything behind and the quality of the hay, the more mature the hay gets the less palatable and digestible it is,” McEvoy said.
The wet weather has created an “economic hardship for sure,” he said, because the farm will have to purchase feed to supplement the lost hay.
At Ideal Farms in Pitcher, owner Mark Tanis said he got lucky by doing his second cutting of hay before the wet weather but he was not looking forward to cleaning off the debris that the Otselic River had dropped on parts of the 550-acre farm.
“Probably 5 acres of corn are under water and ... the trees came down the stream and took a fence out so we lost 15 acres of pasture,” Tanis said.
He said he has about 5 acres of hay left to cut but he has to wait until he can put machinery on it before doing the cutting.
Tanis thinks storms like Monday’s are becoming more common.
“It used to be once every ten years, now it’s three or four every ten years,” he said.
Still, he found a silver lining: His cattle are eating well on pastures that are well watered.
At other farms, like Legislator Kathie Arnold’s Twin Oaks Dairy Farm in Truxton, pastures were under water and cattle had to be moved inside.
The farm had 225 acres of crops, including hay, pasture, corn and soybeans, under water after Monday’s deluge dropped 3.15 inches of rain at her farm in less than 24 hours, Arnold said.
She expected the hay crop and pasture that were submerged to be damaged from silt.
The feed would have to be supplemented, Arnold said, with cows eating more store feed until the pastures dry out.
“That’s what farming is all about,” she said. “You have to work with the weather and do the best you can. Some years are better and some years are very challenging — like this.”
She expects to reseed some submerged plants, such as some of the corn crop and hay fields.
Some farmers, like Karen and Dan Dove at Dovetale’s dairy farm in Truxton, will have to keep their cows off pasture for about four weeks while the fields dry out.
The Dove’s farm also had 18 acres of corn that was underwater Wednesday. The couple said it is too early to tell how the corn will fare.
The Doves were lucky enough to have done their second cutting of hay before the rains hit. But some hay fields were still waiting for their first cutting and at this point the hay would have lost its feed value, becoming too fibrous and losing nutrients. It will instead be used as a fiber ration or as bedding.
Cecelia Murray, who owns Bundy Creek dairy farm in Truxton with her husband, Leonard, said fast moving water from creeks damaged fields. The farm is awaiting a second cutting of hay on some fields and the first cutting on others.
“This usually happens at least once a summer but the biggest problem now is the fields are so wet it will be a long time before we get onto them to hay,” said Cecelia.
Usually that cutting would have happened last week but the rainy days of June left the fields too wet to get equipment on, she said.
She said they are also growing corn at the 565-acre farm, though she was hopeful that crop would be salvageable.
The potential problem with the corn and soybean crop, said Janice Degni, area extension field crop specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, is loss of yield due to lack of nitrogen.
Nitrogen is the main contributor to a full yield for these crops, she said, and with heavy rain it can either flow off too fast from a well-drained field, or go back into the atmosphere if it sits on a stagnant field.
This presents a problem because the corn is also getting too big to benefit from applying more, she said.
With hay, farmers might have good yields but the hay could be unsalvageable if it has silt on it or it could just have lost its nutritive value from waiting too long to be harvested.
Degni is advising farmers to wait three to five days after the water recedes to check if their corn is still alive because corn can survive for a few days in water. Hay that has been submerged likely has silt on it and could contain pathogens that could infect livestock. It should be discarded or kept separate from feed and used in other ways, she said.
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