A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Wet week intensifies stressed pasture problems, creating more challenges for Kentucky farmers

By Aimee Nielson
University of Kentucky

Agricultural land in the Bluegrass state is saturated with abundant rainfall from recent weeks. A new system threatens to drop 3 to 5 inches on top of soaked pastures, creating more problems for farmers who are already facing weather-related challenges with nutrition and overall animal health.

“Unfortunately, more rain is on the way,” said Matthew Dixon, agricultural meteorologist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “The entire state is under a flood watch that will last into the morning of Feb. 21.”

February rains are wreaking havoc on already-saturated Kentucky pastures. (Photo by Aimee Nielson)

These conditions are not new to Kentucky’s livestock producers with record-setting precipitation over the past year. Dixon said the current system is poised to come in waves throughout the week and into the weekend with rainfall moderate to heavy at times.

Low-lying areas will be the most vulnerable, but all pastures are soaked at this point and can present difficulties.

He said flooding is likely. Some area rivers are already under flood warnings and any additional rainfall this week will only worsen the problem.

“Anytime producers can know in advance of potential flooding conditions, it gives them a chance to prepare their animals,” said Bob Coleman, UK equine specialist. “It would be wise to move livestock in low-lying areas to higher ground as a precaution. It’s also a good time to make sure you have enough feed supplies so that animals do not get cut off due to unexpected flooding.”

Based on data from the UK Ag Weather Center, Kentucky has averaged 5.27 inches of rainfall for the month, through Feb. 18.

“This is nearly 3 inches above normal for that time span,” Dixon said. “Putting it into perspective—5.27 inches would place Kentucky within the top 15 wettest Februarys on record going back to 1895.”

The all-time record for February was 1989 with 9.85 inches. February 2018 was the second wettest on record with 8.95 inches.

“The bottom line is that it will be back-to-back years of exceptionally wet Februarys and all the challenges that come with that,” Dixon added.

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