Lessons Learned From the Summer of Drought and Fire

Husker Home Place

Farmers and ranchers are smart folks, and they've been taking notes about how to handle extreme challenges in an extreme year.

Published on: August 16, 2012

Producers around the state have learned a lot in this year of drought and wildfires. Most young farmers and many not-so-young farmers have never seen conditions as dry as they have been in their lifetimes. Many haven’t seen a single really dry year in at least two decades or more. This season has been a time of trial and error, when we've had to be creative and innovative. So, we’ve dusted off some of the old axioms of farming and ranching, and we’ve been taking notes on how to handle these kinds of disasters should they arise again. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve heard farmers say that they have learned this season.

1)     Never take rain and good crop weather for granted.

2)     There are lots of things you can do with corn, besides combine it.

3)     Always remember where your silage cutter is, even if you haven’t used it in 20 years. And keep the manual handy when you haven’t operated the machine for a long time.

BURNING UP: Much of the dryland corn in Nebraska has been dried up in the field for several weeks.
BURNING UP: Much of the dryland corn in Nebraska has been dried up in the field for several weeks.

4)     Never get rid of all of your feed supplies in the spring if you aren’t sure about the growing season and if you have livestock to feed.

5)     We can pray for rain, but also pray that we’ll be OK even if it doesn’t rain.

6)     When you’ve experienced an entire week of 105 degree temperatures, 95 degrees doesn’t feel that bad.

7)     When it is so hot, get the most physically-taxing jobs done early in the day.

8)     Feed drought corn carefully, no matter what form it is in, and be sure to have it tested before feeding it to the entire herd.

9)     In a dry year, all methods of bringing rain fail, including washing the pickup, watering the garden and leaving the windows down on the truck.

10)  It always rains after a dry spell, we hope!

After speaking with some folks from north central Nebraska where wildfires raged in late July, I’ve heard that they have experienced a few rains and that some of the blackened pastures are starting to exhibit a little green new growth. But those pastures, and drought pastures as well, will need extra TLC for quite some time. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from the tough folks who have been fighting wildfires this summer.

1)     If burned pastures begin to green up, hold cattle off to allow the grass to rejuvenate.

2)     Next spring, hold cattle off burned pastures as long as possible for the same reason.

3)     ATVs with sprayer tanks and fertilizer tanks filled with water can save farms and ranches from fires.

4)     In disaster, farm and ranch folks pull together and protect their families and their neighbors.

5)     If you have to evacuate because of fire, be sure to save your children’s 4-H projects, among other family heirlooms.

Be sure to watch www.nebraskafarmer.com and our upcoming September print issue of Nebraska Farmer for more news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at www.DatelineDrought.com.