,As I sit here today thinking about what to write … I look out my office window to the brown grass. That’s when it came to me.
Water, one of the most important resources to human survival, how do we deal with a shortage or drought? What are the potential consequences? I remember the drought of 1988.
However, I have to admit at that stage in my life I was unaware of what it meant and really didn’t care. Now that I am older, I understand the many consequences lack of water may cause.
My family and I own and operate a small to mid-sized dairy farm. For farmers, this is a time of fear and uncertainty. Will my crops survive? How much of a yield loss will I suffer? How will I feed my livestock? And the list goes on and on … Each day on my way to and from work I see the poor corn plants suffering due to lack of moisture. The leaves will curl tight and finally find some relief at the end of the day when the sun sets and they will open back up.
All things considered, I believe the crops are doing well. It is amazing to me that they can continue to grow in what should be bone dry ground. While this weather may be great for the local pools, it is not so great for the animals. Many livestock animals do not have the natural ability to cool their bodies by sweating.
They are entirely dependent upon the livestock producer to supply fans, pens with good ventilation, and maybe even sprinklers. Heat also causes animals to want to eat less, this means reduced milk production and much less efficient weight gain in meat animals.
So, what does this mean to you? Potentially it will mean increased food costs. Many producers are facing at least a 25 percent loss in crop yield. Dairy producers are seeing a decrease in milk production averaging up to five pounds per cow per day. This will mean no profit for many and hopefully not enough loss that it causes the producer to go out of business.
Livestock producers will be forced to sell animals quicker due to lack of feed and inputs being too high to buy them. Cattle being sold early are generally younger and lighter, thus meaning less meat available to market.
Long term, the sale of cows and calves that may have otherwise played an important role in reproduction of replacement animals, may cause for a reduced beef population and potentially drive prices higher. Prolonged drought can have a significant impact on the economy of the area and those with economic ties to it.
Drought not only affects social and economic factors, it can also cause environmental problems. First of all, low moisture and precipitation can quickly create hazardous conditions setting the stage for wildfires that may cause injuries or deaths as well as extensive damage to property and already shrinking food supplies.
Drought can also create a lack of clean water for drinking, public sanitation and personal hygiene, which can lead to a wide range of diseases. While we can’t control mother nature, conservation of this valuable resource is of utmost importance today.
Please make wise decisions now; don’t wait until it is a “have to.” For example, do not utilize this limited resource by watering your lawn. It is far more critical to conserve water for human consumption than worrying about if your yard looks as good as your neighbor’s.
Less washing. Secondly, try to avoid washing cars and other outdoor fixtures. You can also install water conservation devices like low-flow toilets, shower heads and washing machines in your home. I fear that the economic impacts of this will be felt worldwide for many years to come.
The shortage of moisture is not affecting just the United States. I am confident that most producers will weather this storm as they have historically learned how to deal with hard times. We may have to chop more corn, sell less grain, and tighten our belts due to the potential of huge losses in revenue, but we will make any necessary adjustments to sustain our business.
While this is not the dust bowl, I encourage each of you to take a closer look at your priorities and lifestyles. The most important steps in lessening the effects of drought are through soil and water conservation.