Rain brightens hay outlook
Area producers expect to start cutting hay next week, and an expert says the first cutting could produce as much as all of last year's cuttings.
Recent rains have resulted in 17 percent of South Dakota emerging from drought conditions, according to a new U.S. Drought Monitor Map released Thursday. Jim Krantz, a cow/calf specialist with South Dakota State University Extension in Mitchell, said that's good news for the hay crop. He speculated the first cutting could surpass all the cuttings during last summer's drought.
"We're coming out of a grazing season a year ago that had pastures and hay land in dire straits," he said, "but now they're talking about cutting a hay crop next week already. That's going to be pretty good."
In 2011, South Dakota produced 8.625 million tons of hay, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In drought-stricken 2012, the state's production dropped to 4.09 million tons.
Krantz said crop conditions are also good, despite some standing water that could ruin parts of corn fields.
"They can take some wind and rain. Maybe they'll bend over, but they'll pop back up," he said.
Small grains will also have an opportunity to come back and grow to a normal state.
"The big loss that I see is some acres, because of water standing, that corn cannot survive," he added.
May rainfall in the Mitchell area is about 2 inches more than the historical average of 2.93 inches for the month. Through Thursday, Mitchell had received 4.92 inches of May precipitation, according to the National Weather Service at Sioux Falls.
That's far from a record. At this time last year, just before the drought set in, Mitchell had recorded 6.2 inches of May rain. Mitchell's record May rainfall was 10.58 inches in 1942.
Beyond Mitchell, other areas are also emerging from the drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor Map, the very northeast corners of Davison and Jerauld counties, the northern half of Hanson and McCook counties, the majority of Sanborn and all of McCook counties are now classified as having no drought conditions.
About 83 percent of the state is classified as abnormally dry, including 60 percent in moderate drought and 21 percent in severe drought. The worst areas are mostly west of the Missouri River and in a sliver along the southeast portion of the state, including parts of Gregory, Charles Mix and Bon Homme counties. Most of Jones County is also classified as in severe drought.