Parts of NE Wisconsin are now considered to be in a severe drought

Cows need energy to produce milk
Published: Jul. 7, 2023 at 5:02 PM CDT
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SHEBOYGAN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Farmers can’t do much about the drought except - hope for rain. That’s particularly true for southern Sheboygan County. Liz Gartman is a crops educator with UW Madison, she said that it will be another month before farmers know how much their crops have been affected.

“There are some implications right now we don’t like to be dry for this long, but we are not in a desperate situation from an agricultural perspective,” she explained.

For farmers growing their own feed for their cattle, harvests too small can mean extra expenses for the purchase of additional feed. Costs that can’t be avoided, because cows must get the energy they need if the corn crops can’t provide enough.

“It’s an energy source, it’s a sugar source, right, we need something to give the cows energy because the cows are hardworking ladies. The cows are making milk,” said Brody Stapel, Owner of Double Dutch Dairy.

For now, most farmers are still using last year’s feed - but many are beginning to look at how much additional feed they might need to buy in the fall and how to afford that purchase.

“So maybe instead of having 50 beef cows, I only have enough to support 30 of them so I get rid of 20 cows,” noted Liz Gartman.

But farmers know they can’t control the weather and expect both good and bad seasons.

“You have to be smart, you have to keep a very sharp pencil and know how to control your costs and your expenses and keep it low. And certainly, it’s easy when the milk price is high to overspend and think that life is good but there’s always times like this year where there’s no rain and milk price,” explained Brody Stapel.

“Farmers are eternal optimists, they go out every year with the intent and expectation that it’s gonna be a great year and they do a great job being resilient,” Liz Gartman added.

The area around Madison is currently experiencing Wisconsin’s worst drought conditions. Most of Dane County and parts of four surrounding counties are in an extreme drought, the second most severe category.