Drought and freak storms can cause erosion damage

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beef cattle on pasture
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

As I sat at my desk this week trying to decide what to write about, the weather outside started changing rather quickly. The sky turned black, the winds started to blow with some force and then came another torrential downpour of rain for the second day in a row.

 While the rain is much needed in the area, it would be better and more useful if it came at a much gentler and steady pace, not an inch in 20 minutes or less. We have yards that are brown and crunchy, pastures that are short and dusty and field crops that need rain so badly. Unfortunately, when rain comes down fast and furious the ground has little time to absorb it, and most of it is lost in the runoff. 

We all know the importance of preserving our natural resources and the environment. But we also need to assess how these strong Mother Nature events such as drought and rain impact our pastures and forage production. 

Wind and water erosion is a serious problem all over the United States. On my way home last night, I noticed two new field plantings from this spring that now have some gullies in them from the rain we have experienced over the last few days. These two fields have never received any rain erosion-formed gullies before. While these new gullies not only removed the excess rain from the field, the rain removed some topsoil and nutrients with it. The current forage crop planted is not big enough yet to prevent some soil loss from those fields. This will eventually lead to those pastures losing organic matter, lowering fertility and becoming less productive and less valuable.

Producers need to access their pastures after these storm events and plan how to protect their land from wind and water erosion. Some steps producers can take to avoid or reduce erosion problems include: 

When land is clear, plant a vegetative cover. 

Follow soil test recommendations when applying lime and fertilizer. 

Use a no-till seeder as needed to thicken forage stands, especially in areas that are vulnerable to erosion. 

Remove livestock from steep pastures during wet weather. 

Avoid applying manure and other fertilizers in highly erodible areas. 

Plant some trees to help provide a windbreak, shade and help to stabilize the soil. 

These storms have taken out some trees, caused power outages and flooded roads and even barns and homes that have not been flooded before. They may have brought some dangerous materials on your property that could be toxic to livestock. 

That is one of the main reasons that it is important to check your livestock after these freak storm events. Be prepared and figure out how to deal with an erosion problem that may not have been there yesterday.

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