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Historic flooding impacts alfalfa production

BELLEVILLE (WKOW) — Some southern Wisconsin farmers that grow alfalfa to feed their animals are noticing a shortage after flooding this past summer forced them to wait for the fields to dry before harvesting.

“Most of that rain came down right when farmers would take their last cut for the year so farm fields were too wet for them to get in to,” said Dane County UW-Extension Crop and Soil Educator, Heidi Johnson.

The Sugar River had its second highest crest on record during the historic flooding. The river runs through Cory Brown’s dairy farm in Belleville, the water from the flooding saturated alfalfa fields.

“We cut it about two months later than we normally do,” said Brown.

When he did cut it, he didn’t get as much.

“Easy numbers, we normally get 100 tons of hay, we got about 20 to 30 tons of hay for a whole cutting,” he said.

The situation forced Brown to dig into his back up supply.

“We will be pushing the very limits of that storage to make sure our cows are fed,” Brown said.

The feed at Brown’s farm is made up of a combination of things, including alfalfa. The cows go through about 120 pounds of it everyday.

Brown is utilizing more of other ingredients, like corn and seeds, to make up for less alfalfa.

Johnson believes the alfalfa shortage is adding to an already challenging time for farmers.

“Weather events like this can be really difficult and it does feel very disheartening for farmers already in a bad financial situation,” she said.

Many farmers are in a bad financial situation because dairy prices are still low.

“It’s difficult, we try to be positive about it,” Brown said. “We crack a lot of jokes, but it’s definitely difficult.”

Despite this, many dairy farmers aren’t leaving the farm.

“Our cow prices are so low,” he said. “We won’t be able pay our bills by selling out. It’s kind of a double-edged sword where we can’t make enough to leave the farm, but we can’t make enough to keep farming.”

For now, Brown will settle by doing what he can.

“Really it’s watching our costs and hoping for things to turn around,” he said.

Brown will be planting more acres of alfalfa this year to compensate for last year’s loss.

Amanda Hari

Reporter, WKOW

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