Yes, our weather can be down right exasperating at times, especially for farmers who are at the mercy of the cards the Weather Man decides to deal. And this past June going into July has been one of those particularly exasperating times.
Just about every other day, and sometimes every day, we would get some rain. Depending on where you lived in the county, it might have been a lot of rain and other areas not very much. But all through the month, those rains came at times that made it impossible to make good hay.
It's always a gamble. To make top quality hay, it should be harvested in late May and early June. Hay crops, alfalfa, clover, timothy, orchard grass or whatever is ready for harvest has to be cut and allowed to dry before being baled or chopped for silage. If it goes into a silo, bunker or upright, it doesn't need the drying time that baled hay needs but it does need some.
Through the month of June, it has been just plain frustrating for farmers trying to make most any kind of hay. They would take the gamble and cut down a bunch of acres to get it dry. Then it would rain, sometimes not much but enough that the hay couldn't be harvested.
About 16,100 acres of hay are grown in Trumbull County, according to the latest Ohio Department of Agriculture report. While much of it is fed to livestock, dairy, beef or horses, there is also a thriving business of selling hay. It goes various places, some to other farms that don't have enough, some to race tracks for their horses and some sold outside the area for various uses.
When top quality hay can't be made, everyone suffers. Livestock farmers have to feed more protein in other forms which can be expensive. Or they may have to buy western hay where there is a supply of quality hay. Regardless, costs go up substantially.
At this late date, any hay not harvested earlier will be lower in quality and nutrition. Over the Fourth of July weekend, there was considerable hay cut and harvested. Even though it is late, farmers say "it beats a snowball in the winter."
Wet weather has caused other problems. Slugs, those soft-bodied snails, have been bad, especially in no-till corn where there is a lot of organic matter for them to live on or under. They can devour small stalks of corn in a hurry. Control is not easy and expensive.
Then there are the weeds. They also thrive on wet weather and grow rapidly. Spraying couldn't be done when fields are too wet and fields need to be dry to cultivate them.
So, it hasn't been the best of springs. Earlier in May, most of the corn and soybeans were planted, thankfully, and many fields look great with corn and beans also responding to the rain. A little more sunshine and warm weather would help, but, as I have heard my friends say, we can't seem to have perfect seasons.
Now it's time to harvest oats and wheat. Combines are ready to go but will the weather be dry enough to harvest these crops? Time will tell and this is more of the gamble that farmers take. A dry harvest time helps keep moisture content of the crops low and less artificial heat drying is needed.
With all the wet weather earlier in western U.S., we need a good harvest season here and across the country. We need to keep in mind that some of the cost of our food centers around crop yields in this country. We're all involved!
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from The Ohio State University and works with local farm organizations.