Impact of drought felt more keenly by livestock producers

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The drought has caused some unusual side-affects on various aspects of daily life.

Oh, there are, of course, the obvious challenges. Those in the agriculture industry know what it has done to their crops. Those who enjoy a fun time at the lake know how hard it is to get a boat in the water using a ramp that doesn't quite make it to the water's edge. Those who take pride in a picture-perfect lawn have experienced the agony of watering restrictions and brown weedy spots in their grass.

There are some other, less-obvious challenges that have cropped up.

Associated Press reported that the drought has caused a shortage of cow manure. Why could that possibly be a problem? Because the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival needed an ample supply of quality flattened dried chips for their celebration, which attracted about 300 throwers and 40,000 spectators to Prairie du Sac, Wis., over Labor Day weekend.

It seems the hot, dry summer caused the grass to brown and cattle to stay near their barn for food and to keep cool. Grass-fed beef produces the strongest, densest cow pies. Since the manure wasn't in the pasture, it wasn't able to dry and flatten in the sun.

Those always-prepared Wisconsians were able to adapt and use a portion of their cow pie inventory, saved over from previous years, meaning the competition was able to go on. Congratulations to women's division winner Elizabeth Wood with a throw of 130 feet, and men's division winner Kevin Troestler with a throw of 211 feet.

Organizers are already planning on a backup strategy for next year, increasing the number of cow-pie-harvesting days throughout the year to rebuild their reserve inventory.

Another side effect from the drought affects the meat industry. Nebraska Farm Bureau is asking Nebraskans to consider adding more steak, pork chops, and chicken to their tailgate parties this Fall.

According to Steve Nelson, Nebraska's Farm Bureau President, many Nebraska ranchers have watched the drought eliminate the pastures and other forages they depend on to feed their cattle, forcing some to reduce and liquidate beef herds. Pork, poultry, beef and dairy farmers are also feeling the pressures of the drought as the price of corn and soybeans, primary livestock feeds, have climbed considerably as a result of drought ravaged fields and expected shortfalls in crop yields.

Nebraska farmers and ranchers produce high quality protein for Nebraska consumers and for people across the country and the world. Meat sales are always critical to livestock farmers, but it takes on added importance given the year we've had with the drought," said Nelson.

Increasing meat consumption is one way Nebraskans can help and show support for livestock farmers.

As odd as it may seem, the problems facing Wisconsin and Nebraska are inter-related. We would much prefer to endure the Wisconsin problem, but we like the solution to Nebraska's difficulty.

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