Droughts May Affect More Than You Think

By Sarah Wagler, Wagler Dairy Farm, Morgantown

Remember that kid’s song, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day…”? Boy, we sure weren’t singing that nursery rhyme this year! Instead, we were praying every day for rain!

Hi! My name is Sarah Wagler, and my husband and his family dairy farm in Brown County. Every day, we work hard to help our cows produce wholesome, nutritious, delicious milk!

This summer required harder work because of the drought. This year started out beautiful and our crops were growing great and were a wonderful shade of green. Then it stopped raining.

Personally, the drought gave me a little vacation from mowing the grass, but that is probably the only perk! When I looked out our front door, my flowers were brown, our grass was brown, the crops lost their wonderful shade of green and weren’t growing and our ponds were getting lower and lower. Just like your flowers and vegetables were probably not doing as well this summer, more than the looks of our crops were hurt too.

The drought drastically affected the nutritional value and yield of our crops. Simply, our crops didn’t make as much and what they did make is not as nutritious. So what does this mean? It means we are going to have to feed more to achieve the same value.

Many homes and livestock producers in Brown County water themselves and their animals out of ponds or off of springs. No rain equals no pond or spring water, which means no water for the animals. That is one horrible equation!

What made it even worse for us was that our lactating cows—the cows we milk three times a day—drink a lot of water, about a bath tub full every day! It makes sense when you think that milk is over 85% water. So what did we do? We moved water, we moved water, and we moved water! For our lactating cows, we pumped water from one pond to the actual pond we utilize for water. For our younger animals out on pasture, we would truck water to troughs—big holding containers that are low enough for the cows to drink from.

Going along with the lack of rain, the extreme heat also decreases the amount of milk our cows give every day. Boy, it is scary to think how many things are linked to the weather. I guess the vacation from mowing was the only perk. All we can do now is pray for better weather next year!