Dry summer is a reminder to plan for the worst, be thankful for rain

,My, how things change.

It seems like just the other day (it was actually about Christmas time), I was writing an article about all the mud that we all were dealing with, and now we’re all looking for some relief from the record heat and near-drought conditions.

Sure goes to show you that when it comes to controlling the weather, we are pretty much helpless. When it comes to preparing for extremes, now that’s a different story.

If you’ve been in the livestock business for very long, you know that every year is different, and the best thing you can do is try to learn from the past and plan for the future. Since I was hired here at the Noble Soil & Water office in 1999, we have been through three different years that were declared as drought conditions to the point that the USDA offered help with livestock water.

Planning ahead

Now we all know that the wheels of any government program turn pretty slowly, and what was meant to be a drought relief program turned into a plan for the future. By the time we all get through all the paperwork, the drought is already over, and we end up installing water systems in the middle of winter.

But this is where the learning and planning comes in. If you were one of the producers who took advantage of one of these programs, then I hope that it’s helping out this year.

This summer is the test of your planning from what you learned in the last dry spell. If you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to haul water for livestock this summer, then you need to count your blessings.

If you’re not so fortunate, then you should already have a plan in mind that could help save you during the next drought. I wish there was one simple solution that everyone could use, but every farm has different resources.

Use your resources

If you have an idea that you’re not sure of, give the folks at your local conservation district office a call. They may not have all the answers, but chances are, between your idea and their experience, a solution can be reached. There might even be some financial assistance to help solve your problem.

Speaking of help, last week’s Farm and Dairy covered some of the changes in the way that USDA programs for emergency drought conditions will be handled, and they are all good changes to speed up the process. As bad as it is here in our area, we are still not in a declared drought. However, 1,300 counties in 29 states are, and crop reports sound worse every week.

We’ve gone from early plantings and potential bumper crops and talk of four dollar corn to terrible yields and eight-dollar corn in just a couple months. My, how things change. … Maybe the best news is that the rains have started to come.

More rain. It may be too late for some crops that were in real early, but it’s always welcome. In my digital rain gauge at home, we have received almost 6 inches so far in July, with most of that in the last week, and pastures that were dormant are starting to grow again. With more rain in the forecast, things can only get better.

(Jim Mizik has been the district technician for the Noble Soil and Water Conservation District since 1999. He also raises beef cattle with his son, Jeremy, on his family farm.)

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