UW-Platteville experts discuss status of area crops and effects of heat on livestock

July 18, 2013

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UW-Platteville Pioneer Farm

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — According to Dr. Chris Baxter, associate professor of soil and crop science at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, the crops outlook this summer is markedly better than in 2012. “Crops look really good in this area compared with last year,” he said.

The vast majority of crops in Southwest Wisconsin, including pasture, corn, soybeans and oats are in fair or better condition, according to Baxter, and roughly 20 percent of these crops are being reported in excellent condition. “Very few looks poor,” he said.

Topsoil moisture data in the region looks improved compared to this time last year as well. Baxter noted that only 13 percent of area topsoil moisture is considered short or very short, while 87 percent is adequate or at a surplus. Last year at this time, no area topsoil moisture was considered as surplus and 80 percent was short or very short. “This year, we have a much better situation,” he said.

Farmers are nearing a critical time of year with corn pollination and soybean flowering. “We could use a little more rain in the near future to keep the topsoil moisture level up and reduce stress on the plants during this period,” said Baxter.

The early wet conditions slowed planting and may hurt yields on some low-lying or slow-draining soils; however, area farmers who were able to get crops in the ground are seeing good progress at this point.

Baxter indicated that hay harvest dates are about a week behind average; however, the first two hay harvest yields were good. If adequate soil moisture conditions continue, hay harvest yields should be much better than last year, he predicted.

The recent string of high temperature days and dry conditions is nothing new for area farmers and their livestock. According to Dr. Charles Steiner, director of the UW-Platteville Pioneer Farm, farmers are accustomed to summer heat waves and can expect a drop in milk production from their dairy herds.

The Pioneer Farm utilizes a free stall system for its dairy herd. While the cows are feeding, a mister system works to keep them cool and regulate their temperature during hot and humid days. The barn also includes several large fans and temperature-controlled curtains on the side of the building. The curtains raise or lower, depending on the temperature, to regulate airflow throughout the barn.

“We really aren’t altering anything we have done in the past during this recent heat wave,” said Steiner. “With the heat and humidity we try to monitor the cattle regularly, keep them as cool as possible and make sure they have 24-hour access to water.”

Contact: Dr. Chris Baxter, professor of soil and crop science, (608) 342-1388, baxterch@uwplatt.edu; Dr. Charles Steiner, director, Pioneer Farm, (608) 342-6067, steinerc@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Dan Wackershauser, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, wackersd@uwplatt.edu

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