Cooperative Extension University of Wisconsin-Extension

Issues in Agriculture

The information below is in response to the drought of 2003. For updated information related to the drought of 2006 go to Extension Responds: Drought 2006.

Extension Responds: Drought

The rains came finally in mid September, but the long dry summer of 2003 left many farmers with seriously drought-stressed crops and the prospect of short supplies of feed for next winter. Extension Responds with management advice, strategies and advice for making the most of this year’s grain and forage crop.


This presentation in PowerPoint includes pictures and descriptions of drought damage in Wisconsin and an estimate of the economic impact of losses in one Wisconsin county this summer.

USDA Ag Market News, Feedstuffs and Hay Reports” gives current prices for hay and other feeds from markets throughout the US.

This spread sheet can help you estimating the value of standing corn for corn silage.

If you are buying or selling hay this year, this fact sheet on hay marketing may help you.

Find more information about markets for buying and selling hay and straw here.

Do you want to buy hay to supplement feed this year? Do you have some for sale? The Haylist is a free online searchable marketplace where people with hay for sale and people looking to buy can make contact.

The governor has declared this an official drought emergency.
Read the news release about the declaration of the emergency.
• Get information about applying for emergency irrigation permits.

The Farm Service Agency website has links to information about emergency loans and other financial assistance.

The practices and tools that contribute to profitability are similar in both good economic times and bad.  However, the way managers implement these practices and tools may change.


Here are tips for feeding drought-stressed corn to dairy cattle.

Answers to your questions about coping with short forage supplies for cattle.
Feeding Strategies When Forage Supplies Are Short

Download set of slides in PowerPoint that outlines recommendations for feeding strategies this year. Coping with 2003 Crop Situation

Drought stressed corn plants may contain deadly quantities of nitrate. Protect your herd from nitrate poisoning.
Nitrate Poisoning In Cattle, Sheep And Goats
Excessive nitrate in forages are lethal


Because hay prices are higher than the seasonal average this year, many producers are considering weaning calves early.

If you feed beef cattle, how much hay will you need next winter? Use this worksheet to figure it out:
Estimating Winter Hay Needs (PDF)

Farmers facing a forage shortage might consider putting cows out to graze on corn stalk residue.
Grazing Corn Stalk Residue to Reduce Forage Inputs

What do you do if you are over-wintering beef cows and feed is in short supply? Here's the feeding strategy recommended by UW-Extension beef experts.

Drought stressed corn plants may contain deadly quantities of nitrate. Protect your herd from nitrate poisoning.
Nitrate Poisoning In Cattle, Sheep And Goats
Excessive nitrate in forages are lethal


Now is a good time to get into your fields to plan harvest and evaluate last year’s ‘experiments. Lessons learned producing this year's crop will help with next year's crop.

Use this spreadsheet to calculate the silage value of your standing corn.

Reports of corn silage moisture conditions from county UW-Extension agents around the state are available at the Corn Silage Drydown site.

When corn plants are stricken by drought, what actually happens in the plant and how does it affect yield? UW-Extension corn agronomist Joe Lauer responds:
What Happens Within The Corn Plant When Drought Occurs?

Download a set of slides in PowerPoint that outlines recommendations for managing drought stressed corn crops this year.

Farmers whose corn crop was drought damaged will probably salvage what they can by chopping the plants for silage. However, in a drought year, those plants are likely to contain a lethal dose of nitrates. Extension specialists explain the problem and how to avoid it:
Nitrate Poisoning In Cattle, Sheep And Goats

Excessive nitrate in forages are lethal. Extension soils specialist Keith Kelling explains what causes the nitrate build-up in drought years, how to manage feed if nitrates are high and how to get your forage tested.

What steps can corn growers take to salvage the most from a drought-stricken corn crop? UW-Extension corn agronomist Joe Lauer responds: Handling Drought-Stressed Corn


Forage supplies are low and the price is high. How can farmers make the most from their drought-affected soybean crop? The answer may be “forage.”

Here’s the formula for figuring out how much forage your soybean field will produce.

And here’s the formula for figuring out what that soybean forage is worth.

If you’re wondering how soybean plants respond to the stress of a drought, the answers are here.

Thinking about selling drought-stressed soybeans directly to dairy farmers?  Here's how to determine the right price.


Dry growing conditions mean corn stalks may contain unusually high levels of nitrates – one of the key ingredients of deadly silo gas. UW-Extension’s Cheryl Skjolaas provides this reminder about taking care when working around silos. (PDF)


Here are some tips too get drought-stressed trees and other woody ornamentals into condition for the upcoming winter.


The Disaster Handbook for Extension Agents includes a section of factsheets on drought and excessive heat. The Handbook was developed Wisconsin Cooperative Extension in 1994.

The EDEN website provides information on drought and other disaster and security issues.

Research-based information about forages at the Extension Team Forage Website.

Department of Agriculture, Trade and Communication drought website.

Farm Service Agency drought website.