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Drought Forces Farmers To Cut Silage

July 31, 2012, 6:41 AM by Austin Hoffman

Drought Forces Farmers To Cut Silage
FREEMAN, SD -

Take a drive around the countryside of any corner of KELOLAND and the impact of this year's drought is obvious.  In Turner County many farmers are foregoing the norm of combining and cutting much of their corn for silage.  The dried up, half-dead corn stalks cover much of the landscape. And while there's little to no grain value, there's still something that farmers can use it for.

"If there's no grain there, you can try to salvage feed value from the stock," Freeman farmer Steve Graber said.

Graber says around 70 percent of the feed value of corn comes from the stalk. And this year that's about all he's going to get because ears of corn are few and far between.

"And so, it makes good cattle feed if there's not nitrates in there," Graber said.

But in drought years, nitrates are a big problem; they can be deadly to cattle. And any rain now might not be a good thing.

"The worst scenario would be if we did get an inch or inch and a half of rain or whatever.  The plant would take up more of those and then you'd have to wait until it dispersed or whatever," Graber said.

Graber is doing test cuts around this field to see what the nitrate and moisture content of the corn looks like.  He hopes that while the grain value is gone, that feed value is still there because if all does turn south, the entire agriculture economy could be changing direction.

"It's such a huge area too.  It's the entire center of the United States and that's, it's not Turner County or Hutchison County.  It's too big of an area and that's going to affect the entire county," Graber said.

Another farmer who didn't want to go on camera said they usually cut 200 to 300 acres for silage.  This year they'll be cutting nearly 1,000 acres.  While they normally get around 20,000 pounds of silage per acre, this year that number will be closer to 9,000 pounds per acre.

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