The drought took a toll on crops in the southern half of the state. While much needed rain in mid and late July brought welcome relief to crops across southern Wisconsin, yields will be greatly diminished. As a result, dairy and beef producers have been left scrambling to boost feed supplies going into winter.
Rains brought relief
Gary Strunz of Orfordville, who milks 140 cows and raises 140 heifers with his brother Joe, says a storm on July 18 dumped 2 inches of rain on his farm but knocked down most of his early planted silage corn.
"Even though it knocked down the silage corn, it was worth it to get the rain," Strunz says.
The storm also knocked out power for 15 hours at his western Rock County farm.
"We had to use the generator to milk the cows," he says.
Strunz, 51, says they received another inch of rain on July 24 and 25 and 6 tenths of an inch on July 31for a total of 3.4 inches of rain in July.
"That's double what we had in May and June combined."
The rain arrived too late to save his silage corn that was planted in mid-April and pollinated two weeks before the rains came.
"There's nothing on those ears, but we can still chop it for silage," Strunz says. "It will be challenging with all the knocked down corn, but we'll get it."
~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~The rain did arrive before the Strunzes 112 acres of later planted corn pollinated.
"The rain definitely saved that corn," he says. "We'll probably have to chop some of that for silage, but the rest we will be able to combine."
"I think we'll have enough feed to get us through winter," Strunz says. "We won't be selling any corn, but we'll sell our soybeans."
The rain arrived too late to help third crop alfalfa yields.
"We only got three loads of haylage off of 33 acres," he explains. "Normally we get three times that. I'm glad we put in that 15 acres of ryelage and chopped it last spring."
The brothers are planning to plant 25 acres of rye to chop for ryelage next spring.
"If we get a decent fourth crop of alfalfa, we'll be OK," Strunz says.
Terry Janke, 64, who farms 450 tillable acres with his son, Steve, 35, in Marquette County, says drought-breaking rains never arrived at their farm. The Jankes received only 2 inches of rain between May 7 and July 30.
"This is the worst crop year since I've been farming," Janke says. "This is worse than the drought in 1988."
The Jankes milk 110 cows and raise 75 heifers and calves. In 1991, Jahnke had a well dug and a center pivot irrigation system installed on 100 acres of his farm.
"We grow 50 acres of alfalfa and 50 acres of corn under irrigation," Jahnke explains. "We'll probably end up with 200 bushels per acre on the irrigated corn, but our non-irrigated corn burned up. It only got about 3 feet tall and didn't have any ears."
The Jankes began chopping their non-irrigated corn in mid-July. Everything on dry land was chopped by the first week of August.
"I've lived through this (drought) before," the Westfield native explains. "I wanted to stay ahead of it."
~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~Janke has his corn insured at the maximum level of 80%.
"We left strips in the fields we chopped," he says. "We'll have to wait until the end of August for a crop insurance adjuster to come out and check the fields."
Janke says he is looking for hay to buy for his heifers.
"I'll have enough good hay for the cows and we'll have plenty of corn silage. We'll combine the irrigated corn for grain to feed our cows."
Next year, Janke says he plans to irrigate more acres.
"We can't irrigate it all, but we'll irrigate some of it," he says. "It's expensive to put in and it's expensive to run, but it's expensive not to have irrigation, too."
Grateful for rain
Campbellsport dairy farmer Jim Senn, 58, says an inch and a half of rain fell on his 770-acre farm July 26 and 27.
"It really came just in time," he explains. "Our corn just started tasseling. We'll see if there is anything to combine after we finish chopping our corn silage."
Senn, who milks 307 Holstein cows in southeastern Fond du Lac County, says the rains came too late to help his third crop alfalfa.
"Not all the fields were worth chopping," he says. "The first 35 acres we chopped we got 4¼ loads. Normally we would get more than double that."
To help boost feed supplies, Senn planted peas and oats after harvesting 50 acres of wheat. He plans to chop it in October.
Senn doesn't know if he will have enough feed to get his cows and 300 heifers through winter. He's relieved that he has crop insurance and is hoping that insurance payments will help him buy some feed.
"It all depends on if we get more rain. If we continue to get rain and we get another crop of hay that will help. We're grateful the rain came when it did," he says. "The future is a lot brighter, but we're not out of the woods yet. We need rain every 10 days through the beginning of September and we don't need any more 100 degree days."