A cooler, wet spring has led to a drop in crop production all across the region. The lower crop yields are also expected to have an impact on ranchers whose livestock are not able to graze on as many fields and who have not been able to produce as much hay for the coming fall and winter.
To add insult to injury, other feed crops such as corn are expected to be dramatically reduced and therefore more expensive due to the same heavy rains that have affected a large portion of the country.
James Locke, planned consultation manager and senior soils and crops manager with the Noble Research Institute, explained the situation.
“The amount of rain that we’ve received has been excessive, basically since last August. It’s been an extremely wet period,” Locke said. “We have also had issues — not just because of the rain —but because the very cool temperatures lead to reduced photosynthesis. Things just don’t take off and start growing the way they normally do.”
Locke said this issue has impacted farmers all through the Great Plains and the Corn Belt, with soy beans, corn and wheat planting all being either dramatically delayed or prevented all together.
 “From what I understand, they’re guessing a third of the corn crop will never get planted at all,” Locke said. “If that happens, corn prices will go up, and that directly affects the feed prices of what we feed our cattle.”
Locke said helping cattle production is the number one issue he and the Noble Research Institute are currently focused on.
 “Since our biggest industry in this part of the world is cattle production, being able to grow grasses for cattle as well as forages for hay crops, that’s our number one issue and that’s the number one issue at the Noble Research Institute that we work on,” Locke said. “In our part of the world, it’s mainly been the cool wet weather, that’s lead to reduced forage growth. If you look at our warm season pastures, they typically produce about 70% of what they’re going to grow in the entire year between mid to late April and July 1. I would guess we’ve probably lost half of that production.”
Locke said this reduced forage production has also led to reduced hay production. And many haven’t been able to get into the field to even get their hay cut.
“Many of them that were able to get it cut, it got rained on while it was out in the field trying to cure,” Locke said. “Because we were delayed getting into the field to get it cut, some of our forages have grown past the stage that we would like them to have been at. They’re more mature.”
Lock said both these factors will make the hay that has been harvested a lesser quality than it would have otherwise been. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom.
“The good part of all this is that if we do get some dry periods and we’re now starting to warm up so these plants can grow, we may not go through the typical summer slump,” Locke said. “Usually we get into July and August and the soils are completely dry and plants don’t grow. But we’re going to go into July with a full soil profile, so we might get a lot more summer growth than we typically do — particularly on our perennial pastures.”