HAY TIME: Oregon County Extension agriculture specialist Stacey Hambelton said farmers in the county may lose up to 50 percent of this year's hay crop due to lack of rain and cool weather earlier in the spring.
OREGON COUNTY -- Oregon County as well as many of the other counties in south central and southwest Missouri has just passed the second driest May in recorded history. Actually, it's not just lack of rainfall in May that has caused the near drought, it is lack of moisture from the first of the year. National weather service officials said the most rainfall in the Oregon County area occurred in late March and early April with just over three inches reported the average annual rainfall for that time period is over four inches.
Officials with the National Weather Service said from March through May, Oregon County tied its all time lowest rainfall amount, dating back to the late 1980s.
The area received 6.25 inches of rain this spring. Weather officials said normal for the area is 14.85 inches. Oregon County is right now at 41 percent of the rainfall that it normally receives.
Stacey Hambelton, University Extension Agriculture specialist for Oregon County, said a combination of cool weather earlier in the spring and lack of rain has endangered the local hay crop.
"I can't say which has been worse on our hay crop this year, the cool weather we saw in the first week of May that was very unusual, or the lack of moisture we have seen this past month and entire spring season," he said.
Hambelton said most farmers he deals with in the county are livestock producers or farmers who have cow/calf operations. He said most of them grow and cut their own hay for their own use. He said some of the farmers may see as much as half their hay crop lost this year due to cold weather and lack of rain.
"That means if you're used to cutting 30 acres of hay to feed your cows this winter and you cut half that much, or 2/3 or 3/4 that much, how are you going to make up that hay?"
He said it usually takes 1/2 to one acre of hay to feed one cow all winter.
He said farmers and ranchers might face another problem after their first cutting of hay in the spring, when the farmers turn their cows out on that land as pasture land. "Right now we aren't seeing much re-growth," Hambelton said. He said one or two inches of rain now could make a big difference.
Hambelton commented on the quality of this year's hay crop in the county.
"Although I haven't tested any hay yet this year, it looks like what we call stemmy. Hay with leaves makes good hay and hay with stems makes not so good hay," he said.
Hambelton has worked for University Extension for 22 years as an agriculture specialist.