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Rain makes tough times for milo farmers

Area milo farmers did not have to worry about a drought this year, but instead had a different type of problem. A long rainy season has caused some farmers to not even be able to harvest their milo at all.

Harvesting usually takes place from late October to November, however, this year some milo farmers were unable to harvest until December because of the rainy weather.

Chester Harth of Rogers, who has been farming milo for 47 years, was not able to harvest his milo fields because of the cold weather.

“It’s been very challenging,” Harth said. “There was nothing to harvest in a lot of areas. We had to deal with hail storms, a long rainy season and cold weather.”

All of the elements combined to keep Harth’s sorghum from maturing. Harth said a hail storm in early October damaged some of his crops before he could even begin harvesting. Harth said he plants milo in late May or early June.

Cannon Air Force Base meteorologists reported more than 21 inches in mid-November for the year and some Roosevelt County farmers reported receiving more than 30 inches of rain. Milo farmers had to endure a drought in previous years leading up to 2003 and 2004.

The Garvey Processing plant in Portales was able to receive milo from local granaries in Rogers, a town located 20 miles southeast of Portales and Goodland, Texas, a town located 41 miles southeast of Portales. Harth transports the milo to Rogers Grain.

“It’s (milo) down quality-wise and quantity-wise,” Randy McCasland, Vice President of Garvey Processing, said. “Harvest usually begins in late October and November, but the rain pushed back harvesting to December. It was a long rainy season.”

McCasland said that Garvey Processing receives milo from local granaries, process it and sell it to dairies as cattle feed.

Terry Varnell reported 13 million pounds of milo in Rogers and 65 million pounds of milo in Goodland, Texas for the 2003 milo harvest season last year.

This year, the numbers were down to 23 million pounds of milo at Rogers Grain and 13 million pounds of milo at Goodland Grain.

McCasland said the cold weather caused lighter test weights. The milo test weight should be 55 to 57 pounds per bushel, however, much of the milo did not meet those requirements. McCasland said milo was weighing 50 to 53 pounds from Rogers Grain. The lower the weight, the lower the quality of the milo and the amount of nutrients for cattle-feeding.

Grain sorghum, also known as milo, is a warm-season grass grown as an annual feed grain. Generally it is grown in areas with lower rainfall because of its drought and temperature tolerance compared to other crops, according to North Dakota State University Carrington Research Extension Center Web site.

Frost will terminate plant growth. If the plant is prematurely killed by frost, grain development is terminated. Below-normal temperatures during the growing season are the primary limiting production factor whereas above-normal temperatures will improve yield potential, according to the NDSU Carrington Research Web site.

“The milo didn’t get enough sunshine to mature all the way,” McCasland said.

Despite the problems caused to the milo harvest because of a long rainy season, neither McCasland nor Harth minds the rain.

“I’m not complaining,” Harth said. “We’ve been fortunate to receive as much rain as we have received. I’m hopeful it will be a better year next year (for harvesting).”