Not yet, but the lack of precipitation is definitely a concern, according to Franklin County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources Keenan Bishop, who answered a question posed by a State Journal reader.
“Technically, Franklin County is classified right now as ‘abnormally dry.’ But parts of the county haven’t had rain for over a month,” he continued, “while other parts received several rains of several inches but those were a couple of weeks ago.”
National Weather Service data shows that in the seven weeks since Aug. 1, Frankfort has received 2.48 inches of rain — less than the monthly average of 3.36 inches. Compounding the problem is that temperatures have been much hotter than normal and there has been no measurable rainfall at all 19 days into September. In fact, the last time it rained in the capital city was Aug. 27, when we received a miniscule 0.13 of an inch.
And while we have yet to receive precipitation with 11 days to go this month, Frankfort's record for the driest month on record was set in September 1895, when the capital city received only a trace of rainfall. Last year, which was the wettest year on record, Frankfort totaled 7.58 inches of rain in September.
“Right now we are in our seeding period for pastures and hayfields, but obviously nobody is seeding now until we get some more soil moisture,” Bishop said. “The weather conditions did cause the silage corn to dry down quicker than anticipated and farmers with hemp and late tobacco have been irrigating for several weeks now.”
July was the last month that was near normal for rainfall with 4.49 inches recorded, just one-tenth more than average. June was especially rainy with 2½ inches (6.59 inches) more than average (4.09 inches).
Bishop pointed to National Agricultural Statistics Service data as proof that cattle are getting short on grass. Current pasture conditions are listed as 35% fair, 27% poor, 22% good and 15% very poor.
“What this means is the grass isn’t growing back so farmers may not get a fall cutting and will have to start feeding hay sooner,” he added. “In fact, some have already started feeding hay to give the grass — if any is left — a rest.”
Bishop explained that if grass gets depleted early going into winter it could be at a disadvantage and slow to rebound come spring, which may lead to a shortage.
Some cattle farmers, who operate on tight profit margins, are selling their herds due to lack of pasture as well as low and poor quality hay, Bishop said.
“But in the big scheme of things, event though we are the largest cow/calf producer east of the Mississippi, a drought here is only a blip on the market and wouldn’t affect beef prices at the supermarket or long-term cattle prices.”
In the meantime, NWS forecasts more of the same hot, dry weather for the next several days with sunny skies and high temperatures hovering in the upper 80s. A break in the pattern is not expected until Monday, when there is a 30% chance of showers and afternoon highs near 85.