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The impact of heat on crops and livestock

The heat is on

August 1, 2011
By JOHN PEPIN - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MUNISING - You might think the recent warm to hot temperatures would have a negative impact on Upper Peninsula farming operations, included associated financial effects, but that's not necessarily true.

"My feeling is that warm/hot weather is generally a benefit to U.P. farmers," said Jim Isleib, a U.P. crop production educator with Michigan State University Extension in Alger County. "Extreme heat (over 90 degrees) can result in problems and some economic losses, but our 'heat waves' are usually short and not too extreme. It really isn't that bad."

Isleib said heat waves like the one experienced across the U.P. and the entire state recently certainly do impact farmers and farm operations.

Article Photos

A tractor runs through a hay field at Syrjala Farm. (Journal file photo)

"There are a couple types of impacts that come to mind: heat impact on livestock and heat impact on crops," Isleib said.

Isleib said that on livestock, extreme heat is a negative factor.

"I heard of at least one farm where a cow died due to the high temperatures and I'm sure there are others. This particular death was a beef animal which died while out on pasture," Isleib said. "Any loss of an otherwise healthy animal takes a bite out of the farm's cash flow and potential profit."

High heat conditions can also cause reproductive problems for livestock.

An MSU Extension article on warning signs of heat impacts to cattle said warm temperatures with high dew points can cause significant heat strees to cattle. Heat strees is magnified with high temperatures overnight.

The article said the combination of high day and nighttime temperatures prevents cattle from cooling. Three days of those conditions can result in elevated heat stress levels. MSU Extension experts suggested several tips to keep cows comfortable including avoid handling, transporting or processing cattle; provide additional water; observe cattle for abnormal behavior and provide shade and adequate ventilation.

For U.P. crops, the warm temperatures were probably more of a benefit than a problem, unless soil moisture was low, Isleib said.

"Crops use more water during hot weather, and there are areas, mostly along the southern part of the UP, where soils are very dry, even droughty," Isleib said. "Our cool, wet spring resulted in crops such as corn, potatoes, dry beans, forages and small grains being planted later than usual. The warm temperatures will contribute to speedy crop growth and development."

Once temperatures exceed 90 degrees or so, corn and other crops temporarily stop growing until the temperature drops.

"We only had a few days of this extreme heat," Isleib said. "The warm nights also contribute to rapid crop development. So farmers are hoping for warm weather and a mild, warm September to allow full-season crops to develop adequately."

Isleib said hot, dry weather can result in outbreaks of certain insect problems, including mites. However, these conditions usually result in low levels of plant disease in crops.

"Surprisingly, I have heard from a few farmers that the haying season hasn't been as good as you would think given all the heat, because the high humidity prevents the cut hay from drying thoroughly and quickly," Isleib said.

Overall, Isleib said, "it is difficult to pinpoint the financial impact on farms across the region based on the unusual heat. If livestock needed to be handled or transported, that may have been delayed until temperatures moderated, probably without significant financial loss.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.



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