Producers are seeking alternatives to pasture

Several areas of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma are experiencing a drought, and there’s no relief from the dry weather expected in the immediate future.

Production agriculture is made very difficult without rain for both farmers and ranchers. Some producers have large irrigation systems that are hooked up to wells and are able to deliver water to their crop; however, these systems may be cost prohibitive for many farmers or may not be suitable for the farm they operate.

What can producers do about it?

“Pray for rain,” stated Kyle Richner, bulk plant Manager with MFA Inc. in Marshfield, Mo.

At this point, some producers are exploring alternative feeding options for livestock.

Some drought conditions to be cautious of include high levels of nitrates in forages and drought damaged crops for silage and baleage. The more nitrogen supplied to a crop, the more likely nitrate poisoning will occur. It’s important to be cautious of and also remember that initially when a rain comes, producers can expect nitrate levels to raise for a few days after the rain but to level off and begin to decrease roughly around the 10 day mark, as the crop begins to grow again.

Farmers and ranchers face tough decisions as they decide how to proceed with their operation. As producers search for alternate feed options for safety and herd health, these factors also affect the business decisions for each operation. Thankfully, some operators believe they have enough hay left from last year to get them through this upcoming winter.

“Our hay has produced half of what it did last year,” said Dustin Hensley from Carthage, Mo. “We had enough hay left over from last year to be okay but it will be next spring before the ground can recover if can get some rain.”

Other producers weren’t so lucky.

“Our pastures here are pretty much decimated and our hay made about a quarter to a third of normal production,” stated Kevin Thompson, a farmer from Clark, Mo. “There was no carryover hay and we are way too short for this year. We had to sell 35 pairs early in June and continue to be in the red zone on drought monitors.”

Other producers are turning to different warm season grasses to plant strategically with hopes of producing enough hay for the winter.

Ralph Koehler, another Missouri farmer, turned to Teff grass as an option. “I planted Teff grass, which is an annual forage that can be cut multiple times per year,” said Koehler. “We were able to get a cutting just 40 days after it was planted with only an inch and a half of rain.”

Hopefully, they can manage two or three cuttings off their Teff grass and are able to produce enough hay for their needs.

As drought conditions rise throughout the region, producers are still hopeful for a temperature drop and more rain. There have been several small rains in the forecast that seem to break up before making it to the Ozarks, combining that with high temps, we continue to see burnt up, crunchy fields with stunted growth and poor yields.

Gov. Mike Parson has declared several areas of Southwest Missouri in severe drought.

The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering support and relief to Missouri farmers and ranchers that have been affected by the drought. Producers who need relief can apply with your local NRCS office by Aug. 31. Priority will be given to those in severe drought areas.

Klaire HowertonFarm Helpalternatives,Arkansas,drought,Missouri,Oklahoma,pasture,producers,rain,severe,southwestProducers are seeking alternatives to pasture Several areas of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma are experiencing a drought, and there’s no relief from the dry weather expected in the immediate future. Production agriculture is made very difficult without rain for both farmers and ranchers. Some producers have large irrigation systems that...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma