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‘How long will it continue before we get a rain?’: Local farms see impact of dry weather

Xavier Mendoza | WCMU

As summer kicks off, Michigan is seeing an abundance of dry weather and heat, without an end in sight.

“We’re dry during the wet period,” Carmichael Farms owner Gary Carmichael said.

Carmichael said his farm only received a half inch of rain in the month of May. Typically, it rains three and a half inches on average in May.

The farm is 2,000 acres and is a producer of hay.

“The sandy ground right now, all the hay has stopped growing, in fact in some places it’s almost went backwards, which is unusual,” Carmichael said. “That never ever happens, I’ve never seen that the 50 years in my history.”

There are no signs pointing to widespread rain in the coming weeks.

“What you can expect over the next couple weeks is that if we do get any shots of rain, it will probably be rather isolated,” National Weather Service meteorologist Harold Dippman said.

For farmers like Carmichael, the lack of rain could mean an increase in prices.

“We’ll have to raise our prices because there won’t be the hay there and then supply and demand will always dictate that,” he said.

An 800-pound square bale of hay goes for around seventy-five dollars. The dry spell could increase prices by twenty-five percent.

Hay is also used to supplement pastures that are also drying up due to the heat as well as feed horses, sheep, cow, goats, etc.

“For the hay crop, you know, the corn and soy they have a whole summer to grow until fall, and so you can get more rain,” Carmichael said. “The first cutting of hay is sixty-five percent to seventy-five percent of the yield for the entire year. So, if you don’t have a good rainfall in April and May that first crop is going to be short.”

Carmichael also said farmers usually want between four and six bales of hay per acre of land. This year, they might only get two or three bales per acre.

“This is not just a localized Michigan thing; this is a pretty widespread dry spell,” Dippman said.

Carmichael said his farm has been using irrigation to keep the crops growing, but rain is ideal.

“You can only do so many fields with irrigation. It’s so much cheaper and so much faster if we just get an inch of rain, we call it a million-dollar rain,” he said.

Hay farmers may not know just how much the lack of rain has affected their yield until they start their first cut.

“We have been irrigating where we can and that keeps the plant growing, but still for the average market out there and the average farmer, this is going to be a huge challenge this year,” Carmichael said.

He said the next two to three weeks will be critical to know how the rest of the season will go.

“When you have certain situations, you adjust and this is going to be one of those that you’re going to want to adjust to,” Carmichael said.