Va.’s warm temperature comes with mud coating

AFP Correspondent

(Jan. 5, 2015) The unusual weather of 2015 has continued to the end of the year with Virginia farmers mostly counting the warm wet weather as a blessing even if it is causing muddy problems in places.
Livestock producers, for the most part, are glad to see green on the fields rather than white but small grain farmers are a bit concerned that their crops may be jump started and then winter killed.
Patty Johnson, a former president of the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council, whose family raises cattle in Orange County, said they are having problems with mud.
The Johnsons use intensive rotational grazing and have changed their management style for the time being.
They have pulled the cattle from pasture and are feeding hay to save the pastures from damage, she reported.
She went on to say the hay stocks on her farm and in the area are good this year but she wonders about the quality of the hay harvested in late summer during drought conditions.
In Pulaski County, two farmers were glad to have the warm wet weather.
“Not anything bad,” Doug Bunn, a beef cattle producer said when asked. “It hasn’t been anything but good. It’s been an excellent late fall and early winter.”
He conceded there is plenty of mud but he is not anticipating any pasture damage because his cattle are not intensively grazed.
While he has a good supply of hay, he does not expect to feed much because grass was still growing last week.
Cecil King, who raises both sheep and cattle, also said the warm wet weather is a blessing for him.
He said he is short on hay this year and is glad to be able to keep his animals grazing.
One problem some producers in the New River Valley have been noticing is some inconsistency in animal manure.
They are blaming this on the sappy grass like that growing in the spring, according to Extension agent Morgan Paulette.
In the central Shenandoah Valley, small grain producers are watching to see what the unusual weather does to their small grain and cover crops, according to Doug Horn who works with small grains in Rockingham County.
He fears winterkill may become a problem to both as they mature too much and then are hit with hard freezes.
However, he does not expect a lot of damage at this point.
He urged producers to watch their crops closely for problems.
One thing that could cause a problem is grain matting down and being attacked by downy mildew, he indicated.
“Scout and monitor,” is his advice.
Horn added while the temperatures have been warm and there has been a lot of rain there has not been much sunshine, which has helped keep the plants dormant.
While Horn doesn’t work with livestock he echoed Johnson that mud is a problem in the valley.
He said pastures are being damaged by tractors used in feeding hay as well as animals walking on the ground.