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FARMERS FACE SOGGY FIELDS

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Almost every piece of farmland in Jefferson County now has the same unwelcome characteristic — large, muddy puddles.

Heavy rainfall during the past two weeks has caused headaches for dairy and crop farmers, as anywhere from 5 to 7 inches have fallen during planting season. Many farmers are still waiting for enough sunlight to finish planting corn and soybeans, or cut hay that needs to be dried and stored.

The streak of rain this month is the polar opposite of the weather last June, when a drought more than a month long ensued.

Calcium dairy farmer Michael J. Gracey was fortunate because he began planting 300 acres of corn and 100 acres of soybeans in early May, finishing the first week of June before the rainy streak started. But his 35-acre hayfield wasn’t chopped soon enough to avoid the last two weeks of rainfall, which accounted for 5 inches at the farm, 27275 Five Corners Road. He’s now waiting for a streak of five sunny days needed to cut and dry the hay.

“You can’t get out in the field because there’s too much water in the low spots,” Mr. Gracey said.

But because he missed the peak harvest time in early June, the hay has now lost much of the protein that cows need in their diet. Quality hay contains about 22 percent protein, Mr. Gracey said, but he estimated that figure has now dropped to about 14 percent for unharvested fields. Because of its low nutrient content, hay he harvests will be fed to youngstock instead of milking cows.

“But if we wait another two weeks to harvest it, the protein will get down to 5 percent and cows won’t eat it,” he said.

Farmers were affected by the rainfall in various ways. Some got an early start planting corn in May, for instance, but then took a hiatus to cut their hayfields for the first time. But once they finished that, rainfall kept them from planting the rest of their corn, said Arthur F. Baderman, agriculture educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. And those who focused on planting all of their corn first, like Mr. Gracey, ran out of time to cut hayfields before the rain.

Sunny conditions in this week’s weather forecast could allow farmers to resume planting crops, Mr. Baderman said. But if wet weather lingers during the next two weeks, farmers might not have enough days of sunlight left in the season to grow soybeans and grain corn.

“There’s still a lot of corn to be planted, but most farmers should be able to get back on the land again in the next day or two,” he said.

Farms located in the northern half of the county are at a disadvantage, he said, because heavier soil in the region doesn’t drain water as well.

“We’ve had (some) days with over an inch of rain, and some places got over 2 inches,” he said. “Water will sit on top of heavier soil, and those farmers have to wait longer before they can work the land.”

A total of 5.11 inches of rainfall were recorded June 1 to 18 at Watertown International Airport, Dexter, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center. The average for that stretch of time, based on data collected since 1949, is 2.84 inches. Only 1.63 inches were recorded at the airport in May, down from the monthly average of 2.86 inches.

About 100 acres of hay at Murrock Farms in Pamelia still need to be harvested, said 20-year-old Dillon T. Murrock, son of farm owner Darryl T. The younger Mr. Murrock attempted to mow a hayfield on a tractor Wednesday but had no luck.

The problem is “if you cut the hay, it’s going to lay on the water. You then drive over it and it sits in the mud,” he said. That remaining hay will be fed only to youngstock, he said, and not mixed with better quality hay that’s fed to the farm’s 200 milking cows.

The outlook is more favorable for corn and soybean crops at Murrock Farms. About 700 of its 900 soybean acres have been planted, along with roughly 1,800 acres of corn.

Only one 50-acre corn field needs to be planted. On Wednesday at that particular field, located west of Route 11 in Calcium, the younger Mr. Murrock and another worker spent the day tilling and fertilizing the soil.

“We’re preparing the ground for planting and hope to start later today,” Mr. Murrock said at noon before starting up a large tillage machine, equipped with discs to mix up the soil.

About 10 acres of lower elevation land likely won’t be planted with corn seedlings, he said, because the area is too wet.

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