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Loss of alfalfa crop latest problem for farmers

Published On: Jun 09 2013 04:23:35 AM CDT   Updated On: Jun 09 2013 04:25:13 AM CDT

A rough winter is making it difficult for farmers to grow enough alfalfa to feed their livestock.

It's been estimated that Wisconsin farmers lost nearly a million acres of the crop.

In a normal summer, farmers can harvest the crop three or four times, but some say they'll be lucky to get two harvests this year.

Second generation farmer Wesley Statz is a Dane County farmer who said his farm stands to lose about $20,000 worth of crops this year.

Statz said this year's alfalfa crop is thin.

Farmers use the plant to feed horses and cattle, but a harsh winter, wet spring, and cold June has created feed shortages.

"It's going to be a challenging summer again," said Statz. "The alfalfa crop this spring is probably a half-a-ton to a ton shorter than last year."

Statz estimated his fields are about a week behind, while rainy weather continues to push them even further behind schedule.

"We've had some spots drown out because of rain and flooding, and it's kind of delayed the planting of new alfalfa and also other forage crops to replace where we're short," said Statz.

"We've gone from one extreme to another: The drought of 2012, to one of the wetter years we've had in years in a long time in 2013," said Jacob Miller, an agronomist.

From seed to harvest, Miller helps farmers grow better crops.

Miller said the shortage could lead to livestock producers reducing their herds, which means higher prices at the grocery store.

"Possibly this fall especially, if growers are forced to sell livestock you're going to see a drop in the number of cows," said Miller.

Despite the disappointing start, Statz is determined to find ways to make this year’s crop work.

"We'll supplement with corn silage, and we'll buy hay from out of state but the price is always driven by climate issues," said Statz.

The problem is happening throughout the Midwest, with Minnesota farms appearing to be the hardest hit, losing an estimated 2 million acres of alfalfa crop.

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