Area farmers deal with drought

— Despite an incredibly dry July, rain spells have local farmers optimistic.

This summer has been one of the driest in recent memory for farmers in the Cazenovia area, but it looks as though the recent rain will be enough to sustain them.

According to Steve Westfall of Westfall Dairy in Fenner, this year has been the driest in at least a decade. Westfall Dairy produces all of its own feed for 120 full grown cows as well as a number of calves. This summer’s dry weather has affected the yield of hay, corn, alfalfa, and soy that is stored in silos for winter feed.

“We’re desperately short on feed for the cows this winter,” said Westfall. The amount of hay harvested so far this year is about half of what he expected and needed for feed.

There are not many solutions for a farmer in Westfall’s position. Irrigation is not an option for most Central New York farms, as the technology is too expensive and most years it would not even be needed. According to Westfall, the problem is often too much rain rather than not enough, and so the expense would not be warranted.

For Westfall Dairy, the drought means using more corn as silage feed to compensate for the lack of hay. Although this may result in less milk from the cows, it is a more favorable alternative to buying feed from another farm.

Westfall is not alone in compensating for low yields. Locally and nationally, farmers have been in need of several inches of good rain to help crops recover from the drought.

Westfalll Dairy benefited from the recent rainfall of about one inch, but Steve Westfall hopes for three or four more before the summer ends and he said he believes he will get it, “farmers are eternal optimists.”

Terence Hartnett is freelance journalist for Eagle Newspapers, and a graduate of Cazenovia High School and St. Bonaventure University. He can be reached at hartnetc@bonaventure.edu.

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