Hay harvest forges ahead of averages
Wisconsin farmers are making hay while the sun shines, pushing the level of first cutting to nearly 80 percent by the first weekend in June.
According to the “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” released on Monday, 79 percent of the first cutting of hay was harvested by June 3 and some farmers in southern Wisconsin were already cutting second crop.
That’s far above the five-year average of 33 percent and last year’s mark of 27 percent.
In addition, the state-wide percentage of corn and soybeans that had emerged by June 3 is the highest in the past five years.
By week’s end, 98 percent of the state’s corn crop had been planted and 87 percent had emerged. The average corn height was 6 inches, compared to the five-year average of 2 inches.
The document created with input from a state-wide network of farm reporters and county ag agents told of farmers replanting frost and storm-damaged corn, while others were dealing with cutworm damage and high weed pressure.
Some growers in Trempealeau and Kewaunee counties, for instance, were replanting corn due to heavy rain, compaction and crusting.
By June 3, over 90 percent of the state’s soybean crop had been planted and 60 percent had emerged, compared to the five-year average of 83 percent planted and 47 percent emerged.
Some poor soybeans stands were reportedly being replanted.
In Ozaukee County, where the topsoil is dry, the beans are germinating unevenly. “We could use a nice warm shower to make the beans emerge better,” the reporter said.
The week of cool nights and windy days provided 5.2 days suitable for fieldwork.
Although temperatures dipped early in the week with overnight lows in the 30s and 40s, average temperatures came in 1 degree below to 2 degrees above normal.
Average high temperatures ranged from 70 to 74 degrees for the week, with Madison soaring to 94 degrees and La Crosse to 91.
Average low temperatures ranged from 51 to 55 degrees, with Eau Claire dipping to 38 degrees and La Crosse to 42.
Northern Wisconsin had patchy, light frost that reportedly caused minimal damage, although Oneida County reported it “looks to have had a real serious effect on the fruit set.”
Windy conditions also created problems in some areas by drying out soils and hampering herbicide spraying.
Although rain fell across most of the state, including 1.01 inches in Madison and 0.18 inches in La Crosse, the report said additional moisture is needed for crop emergence and development.
Currently, 22 percent of the state’s soils measure short or very short (2 percent) on moisture.
In Ashland County, most fields were still too wet from heavy rains the week before to allow any fieldwork. There will be some prevented planting in the area, the reporter noted.
In Oneida County, any rain received is fast being used up with warm windy weather during the days. “We need rain again soon to keep the crops going,” the reporter said, adding irrigation may be needed.
In Florence County, moisture conditions varied depending on rainfall ranging from just under 1 inch to over 2 inches. Days were cool and cloudy and soils were moist until high winds late in the week made for dry conditions again, the reporter noted.
Portage County had standing water. Now it has dust bowls and needs rain. “This is a year for ups and downs,” the reporter remarked.
By June 3, the state average of oats headed was marked at 14 percent, up from the five-year average of 3 percent. The range was 66 percent of oats headed in the south-central district and 46 percent in the southeast district to none in the west-central and north-central districts and 2 percent in the northeast district.
An early start to the winter wheat harvest is expected. In Dane County, farmers anticipate “very early” wheat and straw baling and “very good” yields for wheat.
Hay yields vary
Growers reported the quality and yield of hay crops varied according to frost damage.
In Dane County, yields and quality were good, while yields were average and quality was good in Chippewa County.
Kewaunee County reported a high quality crop, and Grant County growers got moderate yields and pretty good quality.
In Buffalo County, where the hail-damaged alfalfa has regrown enough for harvest, first crop has been reduced about one third.
First crop hay was short with reduced yields and quality in Trempealeau County.
Florence County reported a crop low in tonnage and grasses fully headed out. “Alfalfa is well into the bud stage and quality is dropping fast. Expect to see cutting soon with the hope of a better second crop,” the reporter shared.
In Kenosha County, hay yields are down 45 percent. “Mostly stems,” the reporter said.
As growers in Waupaca County finished planting their pumpkins and squash, tobacco planting started in Dane County and strawberry picking began early across the state. The size and quality of the berries varies because of frost damage.
Strawberries are two weeks ahead of schedule in Dane County, and “very uneven in size and taste.”
They are coming on strong in Juneau County, but the crop in Sauk County did not recover from unseasonably warm weather in March followed by frost and freezing temperatures in April. Significant losses are likely, the reporter said.
The “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” is compiled weekly at the Wisconsin Field Office in Madison under the direction of Robert Battaglia. It is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and the National Weather Service.