CHATFIELD, Minn. – Just when it seems like summer is finally here and the constant rains maybe slowing down, the skies open up again and flood the yard. That is what the Kappers are facing on their farm now, heavy rains and lots of flooding.
“Last Thursday (June 28), we got almost six inches of rain down here, and then overnight, the river flooded really badly,” said Lucas Kappers on July 3, during a phone interview. “A lot of the fence got washed out.”
The Kappers have a river that runs through their property along with another creek that flows into the river. Normally, the river is about three to four feet across. Friday and Saturday after the rain, it spanned closer to six to seven feet, well out of its banks.
“The big problem with the river is anytime it rains, whichever way the river runs – from the northwest – all that rain comes down to us about a day later,” said Lucas.
Even though the heavy rain came on June 28, the river really started to rise the following day and didn’t peak that Saturday. It wasn’t until later in the day Saturday and then Sunday into Monday that the river started to go down and recede into its banks.
Once both the river and the creek started to recede, the Kappers could begin cleaning up the mess, starting with putting the fence back up.
“We found eight out of 10 posts,” he said. “For the other two, it's hard to say really where they went.”
Along the river, the Kappers have two small fields. One was planted oats and the other never got planted this year due to the moisture. Both fields had over a foot of standing water for a time.
“But I think the oats came up enough, they’re probably six inches, seven inches up,” he said. “They seem to be okay. Most of them seemed to make it.”
It is fortunate the oat crop is surviving the wet conditions because the Kappers are going to need every bit of feed they can get their hands on.
For the last few weeks they have been working in the hay fields, both baling and green chopping. The frequent rains make baling less likely and there is another issue with their chopper.
“We started green chopping now on the hay and alfalfa, but we left that over in the field on Tuesday, so that's in the hay field over there right by the river,” Lucas said. “If you remember talking about that little culvert we were trying to fill in, that's pretty much stuck over there.”
The culvert is where the Kappers cross the creek that flows into the river. Earlier in the spring, the whole area got washed out. It needed to be dug down, fresh rock added, replace the culvert and then more dirt added to create a new, solid crossing.
That hasn’t happened yet, and now the chopper is stuck on the other side of that crossing.
“We need a good three-to-four days without rain, and then I think we'll try to go grab it, but it's supposed to rain again,” he said.
For the most part, the pastures are handling the moisture well. The overnight pasture, where the cattle spend the majority of their time, is getting a pretty good mud hole in it where the cattle get supplemental forage.
“There's probably a good foot of slush sitting in there now,” he said. “We're going to see if we can get somebody to come excavate all that dirt. If it ever dries up, we'll reseed it.”
The main cow yard has to be scraped several times a week now, just so the cattle have a place to go out of the mud. The ground is so saturated that even small amounts of rainfall create mud and muck that has to be cleaned up.
Because everything is just so wet, the Kappers have to rethink what to do with their young calves.
Typically, the calves stay in the barn until they are old enough to go out to a small pasture unsupervised. There they have more room to run and they learn the electric fence.
Right now, the barn is getting full of calves that just are not ready to go out in the bigger pasture, especially with the wet conditions, so the Kappers are creating a place for them closer to the barn.
“We have a farm sign and just like maybe a quarter of an acre there, so I think we'll fence that in all the way up to the milk plant,” said Lucas. “We’ll let the calves out there, so customers can see them.”