“We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave…” That song was written by Irving Berlin in 1933, but it explains what 70% of the country has been experiencing this summer. Although here in Michigan, we just got a break from the 90- and 100-degree temps, most of the country has not. While last summer was a hard one, this year, with high temps and no rain, we are experiencing the first drought since 1988.
We went through winter with lower snowfall amounts and many unusual rain falls and entered into spring with a good water table. But we had a couple of 90-degree days in March and May and cooler temps in April not typical for our area. In May, we had .94 inches of rain, the third lowest in history. June rainfall was .83, the second lowest in history. May and June this year were hotter and drier than 1988, the last severe drought.
I sound like a meteorologist.
Many of us are concerned for our families and how we will fare in this hot weather, but as dairy farmers we think of our animals and crops and how they’re dealing with it. As for our animals, we have huge fans running 24 hours, so they have constant air flow. We also have sprinklers that come on for five minutes and then take a one minute break. The cows are also lying on beach sand, which helps keep moisture away, conforms to their utters, and helps keep them cool.
As for the crops, we have been able do to very little, short of praying and begging the good Lord. The crops are still standing and are taller than most farms, but the corn is curling its leaves to show it needs moisture. We harvest our corn for silage, which means we chop up the whole stalk and corn to feed to the animals since there are a lot of nutrients. Stress comes when we realize that we won’t have enough to feed our animals through the winter, and since everyone else is experiencing what we are, where will we buy the feed for our animals?
Our heat did break for the week and we got .20 of an inch of rain a couple of nights ago and you can almost see the difference. The crops don’t seem to be as stressed and the cows are more comfortable. My husband and I were sitting on the front porch the night the temperature broke. The wind was blowing and we were saying “Ahhh,” but you should have seen the heifers running through the pasture like spring chickens. They were having the best time since they weren’t under heat stress.
I always believe that we experience things for a reason and sometimes we may not understand at that moment what the purpose is, but I believe it’s just something we’re going through, a cycle of Mother Nature.