Irrigation season is in full swing here! This summer has been hot, with rain few and far between. This means farmers are utilizing irrigation to ensure their crops get the water needed to grow. Nebraska leads the nation in the total number of irrigated acres - a big thanks to the Ogallala Aquifer which is an important water resource for Nebraskans!
There are numerous ways to irrigate crop fields, but the most popular technology is the center pivot. Pivots use wells and rotate in a circular motion on the field to act as sprinklers. Gravity and gated pipe irrigation systems are also commonly used in Nebraska.
At this time of the year, with limited rain and extreme temperatures, irrigation systems are necessary to ensure the crops get enough water to grow. Thanks to the growing technology in agriculture, there are many new technologies for irrigation that help only use the amount of water necessary and limit the amount of water loss in irrigation.
Here’s a video of a great explanation of irrigation in Nebraska:
Haying season usually starts in June and can stretch out over a couple of months depending on the operation and quality of hay. Most farmers are done with hay season by this time of year.
The haying process takes a lot of hours in the tractor, but with how hot it can be in July, it isn’t all bad to spend a lot of time in an air conditioning tractor! The first step is mowing the grass. Then, the grass needs to dry to the right moisture level before raking the hay into rows. Next, most farmers in Nebraska bale the hay in either large round bales or small square bales. Finally, the last step is picking up all those bales from the field and putting them into storage. Hannah shows some of the process of picking up bales in the last 'Friday On The Farm' in the video below-
Sometimes, determining when to start mowing pastures can be hard, but as prairie hay ages and develops seed heads, the forage value can decline. This is why it is important for producers to determine if they are putting up hay for quality or volume.
There is a need for both types of hay. Haying for volume that might be of lower quality or that just might not have the protein value you’re looking for, can be referred to as “grinding hay”. This is hay that will be ground and added to rations that are fed to cattle in the winter months! Hay with a higher protein value is perfect for calving season when mama cows need more nutrients in their diet.
Prairie hay is a valuable resource, especially right now! With Nebraska being in a drought, the grass is shorter than normal this year, so the number of hay bales produced will also be low. However, this hasn’t stopped farmers and ranchers from continuing to put up what they can!