CRP opens up pastures

Jul 27, 2012
by DTN

—Drought forces move to emergency haying, grazing.

USDA authorized emergency grazing and haying of eligible Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in 11 states, but that won’t solve all of livestock producers’ woes.

“Even if it starts raining, we’re not going to get a lot of new growth on this CRP ground,” said Walter Fick, Kansas State University range management specialist. “If it does, it will probably be seeded.”

USDA authorized emergency grazing and haying on eligible CRP land after the primary nesting period in 394 counties in 11 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, to help provide relief for farmers short of forage.

“It’s probably a relatively small percentage of the gap we’re facing, but it will definitely help,” said Jerry Volesky, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension range and forest specialist.

Counties now only have to meet the D2 drought level on the U.S. Drought Monitor and have 40 percent or less of the normal moisture level to make a request to the state Farm Service Agency (FSA) committee for emergency grazing and haying.

Continuous CRP lands, including wetlands and buffer areas, are not eligible for emergency haying and grazing.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on July 11 the reduction payment has been reduced from 25 percent per acre to 10 percent for 2012.

CRP quality will vary

CRP ground has not been exempt from drought conditions.

“There is going to be a fair amount of variability in the nutritional quality,” said Vance Owens, South Dakota State University forage and biomass crops specialist.

The species that are present and how far it got before it got drought-stressed are the main factors to determine the quality, Owens said.

Fick said introduced coolseason grasses typically have higher nutritional quality than native grasses.

Nebraska CRP land has seen some new growth of warm-season grass this year, but the majority is old growth from the previous two wet years, Volesky said.

“There’s a lot of old grass out there, but the protein level is fairly low,” Volesky said. “That quality is going to be really limiting and certainly a factor.”

Fick said normally this time of year he would expect the mid-tall grasses often planted on Kansas CRP to have 6 percent crude protein and 55 percent to 60 percent digestibility.

“I’d be surprised if it’s more than 4 percent to 5 percent crude protein right now,” Fick said. “Energy value is still there. I’d expect it to be 55 percent digestibility based on maturity and as dry as it has been.”

Volesky suggested providing supplemental protein for livestock that are in breeding season to prevent low conception rates.

“The nutrition, especially for younger animals, is very critical,” Volesky said.

Producers should keep a close watch on the condition of their livestock and watch how quickly they consume the new growth to determine when to provide supplemental protein.

Grazing/haying start days

Emergency grazing and haying cannot begin before the end of primary nesting season.

“Some farmers and ranchers are urging their counties and state committees to make an exception to the nesting rules, but it won’t happen in most cases,” said Kent Politsch, FSA chief of public affairs.

County committees do not have the ability to override the nesting periods, Politsch said. “The only ability rests in FSA headquarters in Washington, D.C.”

Emergency grazing and haying was able to start on July 16 for authorized counties in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Emergency grazing and haying is effective Aug. 2 for authorized counties in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Emergency haying can be authorized for a single period of up to 60 days. Emergency grazing can be authorized for a single period up to 120 days.

The grazing and haying period has been extended in the past when drought conditions were very serious. That is a possibility this year, but an executive decision has to be made, Politsch said.

Eligible producers interested in emergency haying and grazing must request approval at their county FSA office and obtain a modified conservation plan from the Natural Resources Conservation Servcie that outlines permitted grazing and haying practices. — Lindsay Calvert, DTN