This has been a miserable crop season for many farmers, not only here in the Northeast but in many other farming regions as well. The Midwest and Northeast had rotten weather for spring planting, Texas burned up both from the top (heat) and the bottom (drought), while the very dry conditions that had parched corn in the mid-Atlantic states ended dramatically with Hurricane Irene. (My son Jim lives just south of Richmond, VA, and got almost 10” of rain from Irene.) Crops were hard to get planted, difficult to manage, and challenging to harvest.
The state universities, Cooperative Extension and agribusiness companies have done a fine job of publishing materials related to harvesting and feeding flood-damaged forages, and by the time you read this most forage harvest (corn silage, hay crops) will be done for the year. However, if you ensiled flood-damaged crops, be especially vigilant about forage analysis, what you feed to whom, and checking for any negative impacts on intake or herd health. This will be a challenging winter feeding season, to be sure.
There’s still a lot of grain corn out in fields getting closer to the proper harvest moisture, but it’s not too early to take stock of your current cropping situation: Will the events of this summer and fall result in a change in cropping plans for 2012? For instance, if some hay land was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene (which is what Hurricane Irene was by the time it hit New England) and because of the resulting silt and other debris the land will have to be rotated to corn next spring, do you have corn fields of similar acreage that you could seed to forages next spring? This assumes that in 2011 you had close to the right acreage of each crop; with the price of corn as high as it is, as noted previously this may be the time to increase corn acreage for silage and/or grain. However, this decision should be made only after considering storage options and feeding considerations, involving your dairy nutrition consultant as needed.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in the October 2011 issue of the Miner Institute's Farm Report.