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How does this year’s struggles with planting crops affect your livestock feed supply?

A: With a reduction in crops being planted, feed for livestock will be in short supply. If we can’t raise our own feed we will need to buy it.

The past fall and winter was a trying time for many livestock producers. The cold and snowy weather increased the demand for feed in order to maintain body temperatures of livestock and increased the demand for bedding to keep animals dry and off cold and/or wet surfaces.

Flash forward to spring. The current crop situation is not looking good to build our supply of feed and bedding materials for livestock.

Wheat – The winter wheat crop was injured by the cold, ice, and then spring floods from rain and snow thaw. Many acres were abandoned. Wheat provides grain, usually used for flour, but can also be chopped for wheatlage for cattle feed and then doubled-cropped in late June or July with crops like soybeans, grain or forage sorghum, or fall planted hay or forage.

The wheat straw can be used for bedding, in feed rations, or as ground cover for landscapers. The crop is short and stands are thin in our fields. But, we kept it to have a place to haul manure.
Needless to say, there will be a shortage of local wheat straw again.

Corn – Corn is used in 80-98% of our standard feed ration. The weather that threatens the planting of corn in our area is of great concern. We feed ground wet corn, corn silage, and modified wet distillers grain soluables from the ethanol plants.

If farmers cannot get the corn planted in a timely manner soon, the yields will suffer greatly and feed costs will rise. We have not been able to plant any corn or soybeans yet (as of June 1). We still plan to, but some farmers are contemplating an insurance payment, called Prevented Plant. This means they don’t have to plant a crop to receive a payment. Yes, I have some areas of fields that this may be the only way I could receive revenue as well. But, all livestock farmers in DeKalb County need grain to feed their livestock.

Hay & Forage – The hay and forage crops are at least growing, but harvesting them has not been easy. Winter-kill was hard on some stands, so the crops are thin and getting weedy. Now, when it is time to cut or chop hay for peak energy and digestibility values, the wet weather is delaying a timely harvest. No one wants to make ruts or get stuck in fields. As well, the wet soils and cooler and cloudy days prevent hay from drying.

Fortunately, cattle can utilize wetter grain than hogs, sheep and poultry. Even though late planted corn has an increased chance of frost in the fall, which can lead to higher moisture, lower test weights and lowered yields, at least it can be fed.

Two phrases, “Never underestimate the ability of the American Farmer” and “Rain makes grain” are being tested by Mother Nature this year. We will persevere and live on to plant another day or year. Crop insurance will help the crop farmer and landowners, but livestock cannot eat money from an insurance payment. They need feed.

Please keep all our farmers in your thoughts and prayers. This is truly an unprecedented year of crop issues and stresses for us.

ROY PLOTE – SIXTH GENERATION CATTLE AND GRAIN FARMER, LELAND

 

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Submit your farm and food questions to connections@dekalbfarmbureau.org. We will share questions with our local farmers and publish their answers as space allows in upcoming issues of CONNECTIONS.