Weird weather hits farmers with low yields, bad quality

Duane Dailey

We can’t agree that climate is changing and man-made. Can we agree weather is changing? Does everybody notice?

Weather can make or break a farm.

We’ve seen temperatures go up and rains stop. Think back to 2012 when drought made a huge impact.

When crops don’t yield supplies shrink. Prices shoot up, but, high prices don’t mean much if you grew no corn or beans to sell.

Now, we’re into something weird. Maybe we have a common old drought heading our way. Could it be a repeat of 2012? How many farms can outlive that with today’s financial reserves on each farm?

I stumbled onto an informative column in a Hoard’s Dairyman magazine from March. John Hibma a Connecticut dairy consultant dismissed climate and wondered about weather.

As he points out, warm zones are moving northward. Also, storms become more frequent and violent. Those ideas are supported by our daily weather.

My bias says yes, climate is changing. Our own MU climatologist said on the weekly MU extension teleconference that this month, May, is heading toward the warmest in 124 years. Earlier he told how the last 10 winters were warmer and warmer. Our average growing season has grown by nine days.

That longer season may not be useful. Spring storms may prevent earlier planting. He said that before we lived through this spring.

Long-term weather changes add up to climate change. Climate is what happens over the century.

Okay. Back to Himba. The main part of his column told about changing quality of forages. He’s aiming at dairy producers, but every Missouri beef farmer should listen.

Forage quality changes dairy cow’s milk quality and pounds.

We’ve had more days with little sunshine. Grass, like all plants, takes solar power to run photosynthesis. He finds that plants without sun make fewer sugars, less protein and more fiber.

I bet if farmers test hay put up this year so far it won’t measure up to textbook feed values. More supplements will be needed.

MU agronomist Craig Roberts has already warned about dangers lurking in fescue grass cut and baled this year. It will be extra stemmy and seedy. For fescue, that means toxins stored in the seed. Also, Roberts notes that little hay was put up that didn’t get rained on.

Haymakers noted that there wasn’t much rain over most of the state this year. Just enough rain to spoil haymaking and leaching out nutrients.

This developed since Hibma wrote in March.

Weather changes have big impact on farming. The lack of warmth and rain has an immediate impact on corn and soybean growth. We see it.

The loss may not be as visible on forages.

Himba notes that alfalfa, the queen of forages, may not be the usual. Low sugars and higher lignin cut the feed value.

We may not change the weather or the climate. But, we must learn to manage around the impacts. That means more forage testing to keep rations balanced.

It took me awhile to realize that the Corn Belt crept north. Minnesota and Dakotas have become corn country. The soybean, our warm-climate crop, now grows in “cold” Canada.

Is that climate change or just different weather?

A big culprit is the amount of CO2 we spew into the atmosphere every day. A carbon dioxide molecule, an insignificant one molecule of carbon, latches onto two molecules of oxygen. That carbon can lift off and fly into space. We’re storing a lot of molecules of carbon up there: Millions of metric tons.

Think about it. Will we ever cut back on emissions? Our federal government decided to not improve emission reduction on our cars. It sounds crazy, but that affects our farms.

Oh well, who in Washington believes in science? If we don’t follow science, let’s elect a leader who makes deals with Mother Nature.

Send earth-saving ideas to or 511 W. Worley, Columbia, Mo., 65203.