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June heat wave puts stress on farming

An extreme heat wave and dry weather aren’t just uncomfortable for southwest Minnesota residents — they also put stress on crops and livestock.

“What you hope for is some good rains in June because it’s the growth stage of corn,” said Jim Nichols, who farms near Lake Benton. While some areas of southwest Minnesota have gotten some rain this spring, Nichols said Lincoln County has not received much.

“Our corn is not very tall yet,” he said. “The heat has set corn and soybeans back a lot.”

The heat wave has also been challenging for livestock farmers as they work to keep their animals healthy.

“It adds a lot of labor right now, to keep the pigs cool,” said Greg Boerboom, owner of Boerboom Ag Resources, which raises pigs in the Marshall area. “The demand for water is high with the heat,” so Boerboom said they need to conserve it in every way possible.

At Lingen Dairy near Balaton, “Heat abatement for the dairy cows is huge,” said Josh Lingen. Measures like ventilation and sprinkler systems help keep the cows cool and help keep up milk production. However, he said, “The electrical costs aren’t real fun.”

Up through Thursday, southwest Minnesota saw an eight-day streak of temperatures of 90 degrees or above. While that streak doesn’t break all-timerecords in the Marshall area, the heat wave and temperature extremes are unusual.

“The normal high temperature for early June is about 76 to 79 degrees,” said Mike Gillispie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls.

Marshall’s record streak for temperatures of 90 degrees or higher is 17 days, which was recorded in July 1936.

While there was a chance the area could receive some rain Thursday night or this morning, and slightly cooler weather on Friday, Gillespie said it’s likely high temperatures will continue next week.

“It’s a prolonged stretch here,” he said.

As of Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed much of southwest Minnesota in moderate drought, with parts of Pipestone and Rock counties in severe drought.

The question of how long extreme heat and dry conditions will last is a crucial one for farmers. If there’s no rain over the next two or three weeks, things don’t look good for corn and soybean yields at harvest time, Nichols said.

“The good news is prices are very good,” he said. Good prices for crops could help make up for lower yields.

But the dry conditions can also hurt livestock farmers, by producing smaller hay crops and affecting feed availability and prices.

Lingen said their farm’s first cutting of hay this year was only about 80 to 90% of what it normally is. The second cutting of hay is on its way, he said, but “It really hasn’t done much for regrowth.”

If drought conditions continue around the Marshall area, Boerboom said it could affect crops that would become next year’s livestock feed.

“You just keep watching, almost a day at a time,” he said. Other areas to the north and northwest have been even more dry, which could affect feed supplies. “It is a concern.”

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