MILLERSBURG, Pa. — An unusually dry spring is forcing farmers to take a hard look at their crops and livestock.
Last month was the driest May on record in Pennsylvania, and nine days into June, the trend is accelerating. Dauphin County has received nearly six inches less rainfall than average so far this year.
The drought is cutting into plant growth. At Lykens Valley Bison farm in Millersburg, the spring crop of oats is only about half as tall as it should be by this time. Normally, the oats would grow taller than the weeds and crowd them out. This year, shorter oat stalks compete with weeds for space.
The smaller harvest is a problem for the small herd of bison at the farm that feed on it.
“We didn’t have the rains in April. We didn’t have the rains in May,” said USDA grazing advisor Titus Martin. “If the plant don’t grow, you don’t have feed. That’s just the short and sweet of it.”
Martin was at the farm for a “pasture walk” organized by the Capital Resource Conservation and Development Area Council (RC&D) on Friday. A few dozen farmers and state and federal conservation workers met to discuss best strategies for pastures ahead of the normal dry season in later summer.
With such dry conditions, solutions could include planting drought-resistant crops in the summer, or buying more feed.
“It’s just a great time to get good conversations going and it really helps build up both the science, the production levels and then most importantly, the general health of our environment,” said Capital RC&D executive director Ann Baseshore.
Organizers hold pasture walks about six times a year to focus on different issues affecting Central Pennsylvania farmers.