Hay shortage grips Missouri farmers

Hottest, driest in 118 years

A widespread drought throughout the Midwest has caused a shortage of forages needed by cow-calf cattle farms in Central Missouri.

Pastures long ago dried up this summer and hay and other forages are scarce. Crop yields are reduced drastically, and even established trees are stressed or dying from the drought.

The National Climatic Data Center reports the spring and summer of 2012 has been the warmest and driest April-through-July stretch in Missouri during the last 118 years. The federal agency reports crops and livestock have been devastated from the Great Plains to the Midwest and drought conditions now cover 63 percent of the nation.

Many Central Missouri cattlemen have been feeding hay since June. But their leftover hay stored from previous years is running out with a long winter looming in just a few months.

Few if any cattlemen in Missouri have much hay this year. If they do, it’s not sold to others.

John Smart of Smart Angus Farm near New Bloomfield said he has been feeding some hay since June but in July he started to feed more hay because of the prolonged drought.

Smart fears the effects of the heat will continue into next year. He thinks many farmers with a lack of water and forage will have to liquidate some or all of their herd, leading to fewer calves next year. He also thinks the excessive heat stress will cause cows not to breed at their normal time.

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