Making hay while the sun shines

Carole Curtis
Wisconsin farmers work fast to make hay during a season marked by multiple interruptions from rain.

MADISON - A second week of terrific weather helped Wisconsin farmers forge ahead in their efforts to polish off spring field work.

The "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" for the first full week of June tallied 6.3 days of hot, dry and sunny weather. It was also windy, giving producers an excellent window of good drying conditions to cut and bale their first crop of hay.

"It was a great week for making dry hay and haylage. Most farmers are finishing up first crop," the Columbia County reporter said in the document created with input from farm reporters and county ag agents across the state.

In Clark County, where many farmers stopped planting last week to focus on hay, first crop overall had less yield, but good quality compared to the average. "I saw dry hay being baled, something that was difficult last year," that reporter commented.

Shawano County farmers took advantage of the sunshine to "finally" finish planting corn and beans, and cut loads of hay, which varied greatly in quantity and quality.

By June 11, 81 percent of the state's first cutting of alfalfa was off the field. The condition of all hay held at 75 percent good to excellent, while 80 percent of pastures were in good to excellent condition.

Although there was little to no precipitation reported for most of Wisconsin, the week ended with heavy rains across the northwest.

Barron and Rusk counties were inundated with rain on Sunday, as well as high winds, while Sawyer County got between 3-5 inches. No major crop damage was reported, although erosion and flooding on some fields is likely and the excess soil moisture on heavier soils will impact remaining field work.

"Let's hope for some heat and drier conditions to keep on track to what so far has been a fairly normal start to the growing season," the reporter said.

The sporadic nature of this year's weather has some farmers wondering about the full season impacts.

"Mother Nature continues to serve up feast or famine," the Eau Claire County reporter observed. "Cropping conditions were getting very dry, which allowed for a lot of planting and harvesting of hay. Then over the weekend we got multiple large shots of rain, hail and wind. Time will tell as how all of this impacts the year’s crop progress."

Despite this spring’s lingering problems with wet soils, the report said rain was now needed, particularly in sandy soils.

As of June 11, the state's topsoil moisture supplies were rated 2 percent very short, 14 percent short, 68 percent adequate and 16 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies were rated 0 percent very short, 6 percent short, 76 percent adequate and 18 percent surplus.

In Columbia County, corn, beans, winter wheat, and hayfields that have been harvested need a rain to keep them growing. "Topsoil moisture is getting dry," the reporter said.

In Waushara County, sandy fields are hurting from lack of rain.

In Fond du Lac and Washington Counties, a good deal of corn and beans were planted later than hoped, but before June 11. "All things are settled in for the growing season," the reporter said. "Now I'd like to order an inch of rain for the coming week."

Vernon County recorded highs over 90 for several days. "It's hard to believe with all the rain that we had earlier in the spring, that farmers are wanting it to rain now, but we need rain with these warmer temps to give crops a boost," that reporter commented.

The week ending June 11 was busy, with tillage, planting and weed control going full tilt.

Farmers in Portage County were replanting drowned out corn, seeding down snap bean and sweet corn, hilling potatoes and fertilizing. "Bugs are extremely active," the reporter commented.

Statewide, corn planting actually pulled one day ahead of the five year average. By week's end, 96 percent of this year's crop was in the ground, 14 days behind last year.

Corn emerged was at 84 percent, lagging the average by two days and last year by nine days. The crop's condition was pegged at 70 percent good to excellent.

Beans and oats also beat the five-year averages.

By Sunday, 89 percent of the state's soybeans were planted, one day ahead of average and 10 days behind last year. Sixty-three percent of the beans had emerged, lagging the average by one day and last year by nine days.

Oats emerged hit 96 percent complete, one day ahead of the average, with seven percent of the oats headed, putting this year five days behind the average and six days behind last year.

The condition of the crop was up three percentage points, ending the week at 78 percent good to excellent.

Winter wheat also improved, with a bump of five percentage points over the previous week, to 76 percent in good to excellent condition. Sixty-four percent of the crop had headed, five days behind last year.

Potatoes popped up a full 15 percentage points, finishing the week with 87 percent in good to excellent condition.

Weekly "Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition Report" is a cooperative efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, and the National Weather Service.