Farmers Alfalfa Crop Deals with Hard WinterSubmitted: 05/23/2013
Story By Hayley Tenpas

DEERBROOK - Wisconsin farmers depend on alfalfa crop for feeding dairy cows.

Usually, alfalfa survives winter.

But a long, cold, and difficult winter is making things hard for many farmers.

"That's rot. The plant is green, and it's growing but it's not going to make another cutting," said farmer Jason Nagel.

This year's growing season will be a challenge for him.

"We had to scramble fast, we had to start tearing up fields that we anticipated to have hay off of," said Nagel.

450 of Jason's 510 acres are ruined, and instead of full green fields, we see patchy, crunchy, dead alfalfa.

Crop Consultant Chuck Bolte says a year of weird weather is to blame.

"Basically our issues this year were with the winter weather and last year's drought at the end of the growing season. And that's affected a lot of the alfalfa that was in the ground and we have a lot of winter kill," said Bolte "For the dairy farms of Langlade county and north eastern WI, alfalfa wise we're pretty desperate."

Winter kill affected 90 percent of alfalfa crops.

"When I walked the fields with our insurance adjuster the one day, it was the sickest feeling I've had in years. You walk out and you've got this brown stubble that's here. There's nothing there. And you have eleven hundred animals to feed," said Nagel.

Alfalfa crop from this farm goes directly into silage, which gets fed to about 600 dairy cows.

The temporary fix for feeding 600 cows means outsourcing feed, re-planting hundreds of acres and hoping for the best.

"We can do everything we think is right, we can follow the textbook, follow the research we can follow everybody's advice, but in the end it's what mother nature deals us," said Nagel.

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