How much rainfall is enough for crops?

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By Steve Moore

During any summertime conversation in farming country, the topic of rainfall comes up, many times first.  Why?  Because many livelihoods and much of our rural culture depends on how much and when we get the annual average of 45 inches of rainfall.    During the rapid growth stage of many of our summertime crops such as tobacco, corn, soybeans, gardens and others, as much as one inch of rainfall per week can help these crops realize their full yield potential, and you may remember me writing that 1 inch of rain on all of Henry County takes slightly more than 5 billion gallons of water.   
We’ve had another droughty year in the state and in the county, but not every place in the county has been affected to the same degree.  To get an idea of how much, where, and when Henry County neighbors are getting rain, tune into www. cocorahs.org on the internet, click on view data, and you can see exactly how much rain is in the area.  As many as eighty stations are now active, with local reporters diligently recording the rainfall in precision gauges.  We just got a Smithfield and a Lockport station online, with a Jericho station soon to be up and running.  When you click on the Henry County map each day, you should be able to see exactly where the weather systems have passed through.
Since June 2, most of Henry County has experienced drought.  The Campbellsburg, New Castle and Turners Station reporters have recorded less than 4 inches total.  One of the Eminence stations recorded 4.75 inches.  The wettest station is the Pleasureville station at 6.93 inches.  At the time of heavy rainfall on June 17 in the Smithfield, Jericho, Pendleton area, we did not have stations there.  In the future, we should get better coverage due to some new recorders.  My thanks to the dedicated CoCoRahs observers.
Timely Tips for Cow Herds
Dr. Roy Burris, UK Beef Specialist, gives us the following observations and tips for our cow herds.  
Drought-stressed fescue pastures are not likely to produce much of anything this month.  Provide emergency feed in the form of hay.  
Early weaning can be beneficial, especially to young cows, this year.
Repair and improve corrals for fall working and weaning.  Consider having an area to wean calves and retain ownership for postweaning feeding rather than selling “green”, lightweight calves.  Plan to participate in CPH-45 feeder calf sales.
Weaned calves should be fed a good diet with adequate protein, energy and minerals.
Bulls should have been removed from the cow herd by now!  
Don’t keep trying to get open spring cows bred – move them to fall calving.
Fall-calving cow herd
It will soon be time for fall calves.  Get ready, be sure you have the following: record book, eartags, iodine solution, calf puller, castration equipment. Dry cows should be moved to better pastures as calving time approaches.    Plan to move cows to stockpiled fescue for the breeding season, so it will soon be time to apply nitrogen fertilizer.
Provide shade and water!  Cattle will need shade and as much as 20 gallons of water.
Cattle may also be more prone to eat poisonous plants during periods of extreme temperature stress.  Keep a roll bale out for them.
Avoid working cattle when temperatures are extremely high – especially those grazing high-endophyte fescue.  If cattle must be handled, do so in the early morning.
Do not give up on fly control in late summer.
Select pastures for stockpiling.  Remove cattle and apply nitrogen when moisture conditions are favorable.  Stockpiled fescues can be especially beneficial for fall-calving cows after calving.  You might consider overseeding some of the drought-stressed areas with ryegrass for some winter grazing – since hay could be in short supply.
Take soil samples to determine pasture fertility needs.  Fertilize as needed, this fall.