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The long, hot summer
Crops starting to be affected by 90s, little rain
clouds for 1
The dramatic clouds over Platteville Friday morning produced only a few raindrops. Only 0.04 inches of rain fell last week, and temperatures are expected in the 90s all week.

The hot and dry weather conditions are impacting crops and milk production in southwest Wisconsin, according to School of Agriculture faculty and staff at UW–Platteville.

The lack of rain coupled with daily temperatures routinely near 90 degrees in southwest Wisconsin has impacted farm operations.

The heat has affected management practices at UW–Platteville’s Pioneer Farm, said Dr. Charles Steiner, the farm’s interim director.

“The lack of rain has significantly reduced the growth of grasses in our beef/dairy pastures,” he said. “We had to bring livestock in and supplement feed with hay due to very slow regrowth of grasses in the pasture.”

To make the animals as comfortable as possible, Pioneer Farm staff members continue using fans to keep airflow moving through the swine and dairy facilities.

“We have also installed a new sprinkler system in the dairy free stall barn to help keep the dairy cows cool,” said Steiner. “We also make sure all animals have a continuous supply of water available.”

Cory Weigel, Pioneer Farm Dairy Enterprise manager, said the cows are handling the conditions as best they can.
“Usually when we get a week of 90-degree-plus weather that is when it affects them the most,” he said. “Anytime the weather stays above 90 degrees there is a decline in milk production along with other issues due to the heat stress.”

Steiner said farmers can take precautions as the heat progresses.

“Access to shade for animals and water are really two key issues in times of extreme heat,” he said. “Also, in buildings, maintaining good ventilation and during extreme heat you need to monitor animals more frequently for heat related illness.”

According to Steiner, the Platteville area has received 11.95 inches of precipitation from Jan. 1 through June 25, compared with 16.68 inches at this time in 2010 and 16.57 inches in 2011.

“We typically average approximately 35 inches of precipitation annually in the Platteville area,” he said. “Since crops were planted in April we have consistently been behind on rainfall and significantly behind this month. Over the past three months, we are an estimated 5.63 inches behind on average precipitation during this time period, with most of that being in June.”

As for corn and alfalfa at the farm, Steiner said, “Both have been impacted by the heat and more significantly by the lack of rain.

“We had much lower yields on our second crop of hay as compared to first crop. The limited rainfall in June is causing stress on corn and if the lack of rain continues, it may have a negative impact on corn yields this fall.”