Billed as a "dry-weather" rather than a drought meeting, possibly due to recent rains, about 75 county farmers attended a meeting Wednesday to hear the possible impact this summer's weather on crops and cattle.
While the corn and beans seem to be faring quite a bit better in Emmet County than throughout the rest of the country, rainfall totals are sobering. Total rainfall between July 16, 2011 and Wednesday's meeting was 19.5 inches for Estherville.
That compares with 30.3 normally.
"It's dry and it truly has been for 12 and a half months," said Paul Kassel, ISU Extension agronomist from Spencer.
So how about that rain last Saturday?
"You're not going to help the corn but the moisture is going to help fix it," Kassel said, adding that last week's rains were three to four weeks late to do a lot of good and that a 132-bushel countywide average seemed realistic.
So what's the soybean outlook?
"Soybeans seem almost oblivious to the dry weather that we have," said Kassel, who also touched on soybean pest control.
"It is not hopeless," said Beth Doran, ISU Extension livestock beef specialist for northwest Iowa of the beef cattle outlook.
And, while Iowa is doing better than Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, Doran said beef producers can't let their guard down yet.
"We're not out of the woods as far as the standpoint of heat," said Doran, who recommended that producers allow three weeks for cattle to recover after heat stress. She recommended too that producers keep dated pictures, accurate inventories and proof of death for lost cattle.
As for breeding animals, Doran said heat stress could cause aborted fetuses or problems with bull fertility. She said producers should also watch for females returning to estrus.
Farmers with ponds should watch out for blue algae which can be toxic to cattle. If pastures are fair, producers should consider creep feeding, but if pastures are short they could look at early weening. She recommended though that calves not be weaned during high heat to avoid stress.
Anyone who chops corn should first check for moisture then nitrates, and don't put up corn when it's too wet, Doran said. She also suggested raising cutter bars to avoid the stalk bottoms where nitrates are concentrated, adding that nitrate levels over 4,000 parts per million in feed are toxic.
Doran also said producers should not test silage for nitrates until it's gone through fermentation and that they should consider blending silage and high-nitrate feeds.
Nicole Tifft, of Farm Credit Services of America, talked about crop insurance options. Tifft suggested crop producers notify their local insurance agent for instructions before chopping a crop since they may be required to leave some test strips. She said producers should keep production records, sale tickets and settlement sheets.
Larry Lago, from the Farm Service Agency in Spirit Lake, said livestock producers should also keep records in the event that livestock programs that expired in 2011 should come back. Then payments would be made in arrears, he said.
Lago also encouraged producers to keep good records if they're doing supplemental feeding.
Lago also noted recent relaxed requirements on CRP grazing and haying.