Dry fall helps with harvest but not pastureland

farmersVirginia topsoil moisture levels for the week ending Oct. 6 were approaching drought levels, with 73 percent of the state reporting short water supplies.

The Oct. 10 National Agricultural Statistics Service weekly crop progress report noted that the dry weather “continued to be beneficial for harvesting, but continues to impact pastures and crops.”

Greene County cattleman James Henshaw said it’s been too hot and dry on the four farms where he raises beef cattle.

“This year, due to the weather, I didn’t run as many calves as I normally would. And they have the land grazed down right now,” said Henshaw, who serves on the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Livestock Advisory Committee. “I’ve started to feed hay the last couple of weeks. Normally I would be stockpiling hay right now, but not this year.”

Dry weather is preferable for farmers who are harvesting, and most Virginia crops are coming in ahead of the five-year average. Apples, corn for grain, peanuts and tobacco harvests are advancing nicely, according to the report. Some timely moisture now would be beneficial to those crops.

Precipitation rates were about 3 inches below average across the state, according to the Oct. 10 report. Rainfall levels are almost 6 inches below average for the year in Lynchburg and almost 5 inches below average for the year in the Richmond area.

The two-week weather forecast in central Virginia as of Oct. 11 calls for more seasonable temperatures, with little rain after this week. That’s not what livestock producers want to hear right now.

“We need to get more rain, and not so hard that it runs off,” Henshaw said. “Some good, soaking rains two or three times a week would be good. At least once a week would be good to help the forage to recover.”

He added that he’s hoping for a normal winter without too much snow, which would allow his pastures to grow enough for some grazing. Otherwise, he’ll have to feed more hay to his cattle.

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