March winds fit our weather; cold and flood waters not right


March is our windy month. This one seems wilder than any I recall. When I almost blew over going into the post office, I don’t think it was because I was frail as leaves blowing in the wind.

These winds are cold. It’s going to take warm breezes to dry the soil as we head into planting season.

Also, frequent rains must spread out, but not stop.

More wet news heads toward us in a big way. MU livestock specialists attended their national meeting in Omaha last week. Going home became a problem for all attendees, especially those west and north. All Interstates were blocked. Snows and floods closed highways.

Dave Patterson, reproduction specialist, said they’d never seen so many blocked roads.  Our crew saw gigantic snowdrifts along roads. Those drifts melting add to runoff of fresh rains already flowing.

Videos from the area show many flooded towns. Small bridges washed away. Traffic on Interstate-80 across Nebraska jammed at a standstill.

All of that water runs downhill — in the direction of Missouri. That brings memories of the floods of 1993. It was huge rains up north that flooded Missouri. Upland fields could be planted, but not bottom grounds.

A crop report on Friday said planting intentions are in disarray. Who knows how long it will take to drain crop fields across the upper Midwest. And, remember, more of our corn grows up north as warming seasons move the Corn Belt north.

In our own state, wet unfrozen pastures prove nasty. A farmer tweeted about taking a big bale to feed his cows. The tractor with bale slid down a muddy hillside. It took a wrecker from town plus a neighbor’s 100-foot log chain to pull him out of the ditch.

Muddy pastures get torn up in feeding cow herds. That’ll slow grass growth. Also, dwindling hay piles concern those feeding cattle.

At this point, herd owners dream of green-up time as pastures start regrowth in the warm sun of April.

MU livestock specialists warn farmers to go slow turning cows onto pastures at first sign of green. Last spring, this happened as grass slowly emerged. Cows lined up, side by side, nibbling their way across pastures with only a couple of inches of growth. That’s a start to no feed later.

First grass must be allowed to grow. That’s true after two drought years we’ve had.

First grass must extend full leaves to allow photosynthesis to rebuild weak roots. Growth for summer grazing depends on deep strong roots. It’ll take a perfect combination of sunshine and rains to replenish pastures. Hayfields must regrow and then rebuild for harvest.

Some grazing paddocks will be sacrificed as holding pens. In fact they become feedlots to provide grain rations of corn and byproducts to sustain herds.

This will be tough on spring-calving cows. They must supply milk for calves while restoring body condition for rebreeding. The next calf crop depends on it. Short rations last spring led to unexpected failed conceptions.

The much delayed USDA cow census came out after the government shutdown.         The report shows Missouri, which held No.2 spot, drops to No. 3 in cows. We won’t have as many cows to support by our forages.

Cows count as a major income source for most farms not blessed with crop soils.

News stories now report lender concerns about farm loans. Some miss loan payments.

Also, crop prices dropped. When China stopped buying soybeans, Missouri was hardest hit. Retaliation to a U.S. trade war hit Missouri hard. Soybeans, a top cash crop, drop in price when China stops buying. That wasn’t all. The U.S. pulled out of a trade deal with Japan, a large market for exported Prime Beef, our richest export.

Washington learns slowly the power of farming in the U.S. economy.

The Extension Ag Lenders conferences in June will give economic updates from the front lines.

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