Farmers remain cautiously optimistic

August 17, 2010|By JEFF SEMLER

As I write this week's installment, there is again the promise or threat of rain in the forecast.

I am not going to dwell on the drought this week. While the crops are way less than optimal, the general mood of local agrarians is cautiously optimistic. They are not Pollyannas. They are not looking through rose-colored glasses. They just know what we all know - it will rain again and when it does we will need it.

Instead of panic, they are preparing. I truly believe this fall we will have more acres planted to oats than any time since we farmed with horses.

There will be, of course, stark differences.

First, the oats will be planted in the fall not the spring and harvested for forage and not for grain.

Annual clovers will be added in a number of cases and maybe also other cereal grains or tillage radishes.


Because our corn silage yields are less than half of normal and our hay inventories are extremely short, forage is needed by many lives-tock producers.

For this reason, they are using multiple strategies from their toolbox. In addition to the fall forages, acres will also be planted to winter cereals such as rye, wheat, barley and triticale again to be harvested next spring for forage. These crops will be harvested in April or May and will be planted to corn or sorghum for harvest late summer or early fall 2011.

As you can see, the production cycle goes on. Agricultural cropping schemes are more in depth with various contingencies than one might imagine. Agriculture has never been as simplistic as those of us that read the Golden Book about Farmer Brown were led to believe.

Farmers are constantly learning either by consulting advisers, such as extension personnel, or crop consultants. In addition, farmers learn from other farmers. Solomon recognized the concept in his Proverb, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

One of the venues we use in Washington County is known as the pasture walk.

Pasture walks are just what they sound like; we walk pastures and discuss grazing strategies. Our next pasture walk will occur Thursday at Price Family beef farm on Mondell Road outside of Sharpsburg. This Angus based beef cow-calf operation relies heavily on grazing their permanent pastures along with feeding their own hay and utilizing annual crops planted on shared land.

Feel free to join us, even though we are in the midst of a drought and our pastures don't look any better than our crop fields. We will discuss approaches for both normal precipitation and dry weather.

If you are interested in participating, please contact the Extension Office at 301-791-1304 to sign up and get directions. Our start time is 6:30 p.m. Additional details are also available at

Whether you are a pasture walk veteran or this is your first, I know you will find this experience to be time well spent. I hope to see you there.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at">

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