Our Story: Drought Response in Iowa

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach takes on food and environmental challenges, including the slowly unfolding crisis of the drought. In 2012 more than 6,000 Iowans participated in ISU Extension and Outreach meetings and webinars and called our hotlines and specialists for updates on crop, livestock, and horticulture issues. Our drought response will continue in 2013 as we anticipate Iowans’ needs for their farms, families, businesses, and communities.

Denise Schwab, an ISU Extension and Outreach beef specialist, says:

Well, 2012 started off as a dry year and has stayed dry throughout the state of Iowa. A number of us were talking about the dry weather, watching the drought monitor, and keeping an eye out on the progress long before we ever started to call it a drought, or to realize it was in a full-blown drought. So I think we were very prepared when it really developed. But once it really did hit, we were ready to take some action. One of the first things was to put together some webinars statewide that addressed different topics related to producers — that was one way that we could get a lot of information to a lot of producers in a short time.

Wayne Busch, who farms near Lost Nation, Iowa, says:

Well this year we only got an inch of rain in June and an inch of rain in July, so the grass didn’t grow. We pulled about 75 percent of the cows up here to the place and hayed them for over two months. We’re going to have to have extra feed supplies for this winter because last year we had pasture clear up to the first of the year. We stockpiled grass … it’s not going to happen this year.

Denise says:

That drought has definitely affected our ability to raise crops, both corn and soybeans, which is our major cash crop and feed, but also our forages and our pastures. And because of that impact on pastures and hay and our future feed of corn, it’s had a huge impact on our livestock producers, particularly cattle and hog producers.

One of the other options that we’ve posed to producers, and Wayne took us up on, was the idea of cover crops. The use of cover crops behind our chopped corn has multiple assets. It conserves the soil, it will help to catch some of the snowfall that we have this winter, but it also gives us an additional feed resource for either late this winter grazing or next spring grazing. So it gives us feed that way.

Throughout the drought and all the programs we’ve done, as we’ve reached over thousands of producers, Extension and Outreach is here to help people. We’re here for Wayne and Kathy. We’re not here for the cattle or for the crops, but we’re here for the farmers that we work with. That’s what makes this job fun and exciting and a challenge to go to work very morning.

Get Involved

Contact Denise Schwab, dschwab@iastate.edu, 319-472-4739, about drought concerns.