Plan ahead to avoid repeat of 2011

Rain, rain, go away…

2011 will certainly be remembered for a long time as one of the wettest on record. I can’t cite any “official” data, but we’ve had at least 12 more inches of rain this year than our average. It has been wet here in Noble County since late February, and there seems to be no relief in sight.

Review

You all know the story. Crops were planted a month or six weeks late. Making hay was a challenge all summer long. Late planted crops were slow to dry down, delaying harvest while more rains just kept coming. Fields and pastures that are normally suitable for grazing and feeding hay on are saturated to a point we normally don’t see until March or April.

It’s enough to make a person crazy, if you dwell on it.

We had a landowner in our office a while back , and when the weather worked its way into the conversation, he thought we’d just have to do what the old-timers always did — let it rain. With most things in life, worrying and complaining just doesn’t do much good.

Every cloud — no matter how gray — has a silver lining. Sometimes it’s just hard to see.

As bad as we’ve had it this growing season, I wouldn’t switch places with a Texas rancher for anything. They haven’t had rain for nearly two years. They have no crops, no grass and they’re buying expensive hay to feed the livestock that they haven’t already sold.

The story goes, that one fella weaned his spring calves and took them to market in early fall, and they had never been rained on.

Plan ahead

Now, before I ramble on any farther, I do want to make a point. From a Soil and Water perspective, these are excellent times to do some serious planning. If you get depressed every time you go out to feed round bales in the mud, try figuring out what you could be doing differently.

Is the answer to buy a four-wheel-drive tractor, or make some improvements that would benefit your livestock and your land? Is there a place on your farm where you could build a feeding pad that you could use when the mud is ankle deep?

Is there a place that you could store your hay so it would be easier to get to when you feed? If you already have a place to feed, do you need a place to store manure until this crazy weather lets you spread?

Factors

Before you say you can’t afford it, think about how much better off your cows could be in wet times, how much hay you’ll be saving, how nice it would be to not make ruts in your pasture, and how much more you got for your calves this year.

If that’s not enough, think about signing up with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to get some assistance. Their Environmental Quality Incentive Program is designed to help folks with all of these problems — whether you need help planning, building or paying for these practices — it could be what you’re looking for.

Assistance

If you don’t like getting into programs like that, that’s O.K. The folks at your local Soil & Water Conservation District office’s can still help in planning and guiding you through, and they probably know someone who has already done some of these things that you could check out for yourself, if you’d like. And their help won’t cost you a thing.

So, if you don’t want to move to Texas, and you’d still like to stay out of the mud, consider a visit with your local Soil and Water Conservation District to see if they can help.

About the Author

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. More Stories by Jim Mizik

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