Iowa topsoil moisture still short, western districts driest

Despite cold and wet weather in March, difficulties seen in calving

Despite snowfall and rainfall in March, Iowa's topsoil moisture levels remain below normal, with the western districts in the state recording the driest conditions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week rated Iowa topsoil moisture 35 percent very short, 49 percent short, 16 percent adequate, and no surplus. Southeast Iowa had the most moisture, with 39 percent of the land having adequate moisture.

Multiple storms in March brought moisture across Iowa, mostly in the form of snow. The additional precipitation was welcomed by farmers, although with the ground still frozen the beneficial impact of the moisture was reduced or negated.

Iowa, which leads the nation in corn acreage, planted 14.6 million acres of corn in 2012, up half a million acres from the year before.

Hard hit by last year's drought, Iowa corn production fell to 1.87 billion bushels, down 4 million bushels from 2011.

The USDA on March 28 said Iowa corn producers are expected to plant 14.2 million acres of corn this year. The state's soybean growers are expected to plant 9.4 million acres, up slightly from 9.35 million acres planted in 2012.

The availability of hay and roughage supplies fell at the end of March to 54 percent short, 45 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus with 27 percent of the remaining supply in good condition.

Hay markets in Dyersville and Fort Atkinson reported small square bales selling for as much as $410 per ton and large square bails fetching $320 to $380 per ton.

Hog and pig losses in March were 17 percent light, 81 percent average and 2 percent heavy.

The Iowa office of the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service said the cold and wet weather in March presented difficulties for ranchers that were calving. Cattle and calf losses were 14 percent light, 82 percent average and 4 percent heavy.

Iowa temperatures averaged 28.5 degrees or 7.4 degrees below normal while precipitation totaled 2.19 inches or 0.04 inches above normal. Last month ranked as the 17th coldest and 49th wettest March among 141 years of state records.

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