(Photo by Gabe Licht) [Order this photo]
With moisture reserves quickly disappearing throughout the area, about 100 farmers gathered at the Spencer School Administration Building Tuesday morning for a discussion about the dry conditions' effects on crops and livestock.
"I've been doing this for 31 years and this is my second drought meeting," Iowa State University Extension Field Agronomist Paul Kassel told the crowd. "My first was Friday."
Much of western Iowa is experiencing a moderate drought, while the eastern portion of the state is experiencing a severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Kassel demonstrated the difference by contrasting Sioux Rapids to Britt. As of Monday, the Buena Vista County community had between 10 and 20 days worth of moisture remaining, compared to no moisture estimated in Britt's soil.
Limited moisture has been intensified by stress degree days.
"Corn grain-fill takes about 60 days from silking to black layer," Kassel said. "Crop stress that occurs early in the grain-fill time period can reduce corn yields by 3 to 6 percent per day. Yield reduction by moisture stress decreases to 3 to 5 percent in the mid-grain fill time period, and decreases to 1 to 3 percent during the last couple weeks of grain fill."
Before the event, Kassel helped ISU Beef Specialist Beth Doran test corn for nitrates.
Every sample tested positive for nitrates, which can be harmful to cattle.
Doran is concerned that farmers will chop their corn for silage too early, when moisture and nitrate levels are high.
"I would recommend testing for nitrates before feeding," Doran said, adding that stored silage should also be tested before feeding. She also noted that cattle can develop a tolerance for higher nitrates if adapted to it slowly.
With feedlot cattle facing heat stress, there is a potential for shrink, dark cutters and marbling loss.
"If they aren't big heavy steers and heifers and you can allow them to stay at your place for three weeks, I would," Doran said. "Allow time for them to recover and come back."
Heat can affect bull fertility and can keep a female from breeding or cause her to abort the calf.
In pastures, farmers should be on alert for blue-green algae.
"It can affect the nervous system in cattle," Doran said. "It can be deadly if consumed."
Farmers dealing with short pastures should consider early weaning, Doran suggested. Those with very short pastures should move their cows to a dry lot until the pasture recovers.
Deanna Orwig of Orwig All Risk Crop Insurance concluded the program.
She explained that insured farmers are either guaranteed the higher of the harvest price or the spring price, which is $5.68 per bushel for corn and $12.55 per bushel for soybeans.
"When it is time for harvesting your crops, keep accurate and separate records of the production, so you can prove what you have produced on each section or unit," Orwig said.
She clarified that bushel loss can be reported in the year funds were received from insurance or the year when that crop would have normally been sold.
Those planning to cut silage need an adjustor to do a free appraisal beforehand, she added.
Orwig also advised farmers with claims of $200,000 or more to be prepared for a three-year actual production history review.
"It will not take much to reach $200,000, so please take the time now to prepare and it will make the claim payment much quicker," Orwig said.
She reminded farmers that multi-peril coverage does not insure against fires and also said forage insurance is available until Sept. 30.
She urged them to be prepared.
"Adjusters will be busy," she said, "so please have all the necessary settlement sheets and scale tickets available."