It’s a scorcher out there, and local ­farmers are feeling the heat

By Matthew Sylvester, Special to The Record

Dennis Taylor is the sixth generation operator of Woodsview Farm, a family business that has been serving the community of Cookshire-Eaton for over two centuries. For him, the lack of rain and high temperatures that have been hitting the Townships this summer mean big changes in the returns from his farm.
“The second cut [of hay] is way down this year,” he remarked in an interview on Thursday, “and the first cut was lower than usual too.”
Taylor usually uses his harvests of hay not only to feed the dairy cows that make up the core of Woodsview’s business, but he also provides the excess to nearby horse owners. This year, there might not be enough to go around.
“We might not even have a fourth cut this year,” Taylor said.
Each field is usually able to be harvested hay four times every year. If the rain doesn’t come, though, that number might go down to three. It’s a similar story at other farms in the Townships too, and Taylor figures hay prices will rise to match the lack of supply, making it even tougher for those unable to provide enough for their livestock.
Luckily, Woodsview’s milk production was only marginally affected by the heat, and the supply of water hasn’t run out quite yet. Much of this is due to the recent upgrades to the farm, including a tunnel ventilation system that circulates dry air through the barn and helps to ward off the heat, and cooling waterbeds for cattle to lie on during the hot summer months. This helps keep the huge amount of water that they need to drink-over 100 litres daily, to more manageable levels.
Taylor is thankful for the stability the upgrades provide. Instead of having to let the cows graze in the hot sun, which could lead to less milk production from them lounging in the shade when they would normally be grazing, his cattle can stay in the cool barn all day long and be fed with hay from the fields. Other farms might not have that luxury, he said.
The tropical temperatures aren’t all bad news, though. Corn loves a humid heat, and the cornfield just past the barn is overflowing with green. Taylor hopes to offset potential losses in hay this year with a higher than normal yield of corn. This kind of diversification is one of Woodsview’s main strategies to survive a more volatile future, as global warming makes heat spells hotter and droughts longer. Having a diverse yield makes sure there’s always something to fall back on when the weather gets extreme.

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