Weeding things out
By MIKE CORN
It's the bane of Kansas farmers who rise up each year to fight it.
But this summer's drought made life tough even for the hardy musk thistle, a noxious weed in Kansas.
In the rush to produce seeds, however, the plant hurriedly flowered, sending farmers into their fields to spray.
The process also gave farmers a chance to get a close look at the condition of pastures. They didn't like it one bit, even though they already knew how severe the conditions were.
Generally widespread rains have changed much of that, but not enough to prompt many farmers to fully stock pastures.
Many pastures still are empty, resting for next year's growing season.
Mark Huseman, Ellsworth, took to a pasture just north of Lake Wilson recently to take on the dreaded musk thistle. His constant companion, an Australian shepherd, was along for the ride.
Even with an early round of rains amounting to nearly 3 inches, Huseman said the 800-acre Russell County pasture still wasn't fully stocked with cattle.
"We're not anywhere near normal stocking," he said. "Half stocked."
Part of that reduction is a result of dry conditions last year, forcing ranchers to lower stocking rates then.
In Trego County, the full section of grass -- 640 acres -- didn't contain a single animal two weeks ago, and just a handful now.
There, the rancher didn't want to give his name, but he talked about the dry conditions even after the rains started falling.
"It might green up," he said of the pasture after the first round of rains.
Recent big rains convinced him to bring in some cattle, but far fewer than half the pasture's normal capacity. The grass remains short, however.
"You put cows in now, they'd eat it clean to the ground," he said before the rain.
It's as dry, the farmer said, as it's been since 1957 -- the granddaddy of dry years.
"That year, I sold half of my herd. This has been the driest, I think."