Jonathan Gaskins, Columbia, KY, has harvested wheat for silage – to feed his lactating dairy cows – two to three weeks ahead of schedule.

Usually, says Gaskins, he wouldn’t be in the field until the last week of April or first week of May. Yet his 110 wheat acres were ready to cut April 3 and he finished April 11.

Gaskins harvests the crop when it reaches late-boot stage to get the best quality. But it’s a short window between then and when it begins to head.

In mid-March, he asked Nick Roy, University of Kentucky (UK) Extension ag and natural resources agent in Adair County, to check his crop. It wasn’t the first Roy had been asked to evaluate this year.

“The crop is at least three, if not four, weeks of ahead of schedule,” he said. “An unseasonably warm March led to early crop development. Everything across the state is ahead of schedule, and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the wheat crop or fruit trees.”

This has been the warmest March in Kentucky since records were first kept 115 years ago; temperatures averaged 11º above normal, says Tom Priddy, UK College of Agriculture meteorologist.

Harvesting wheat this early helps, Gaskins says. “I’m going to mix it in with my ration and save some of my corn silage.”

“It could wind up being a tremendous benefit for farmers,” Roy agrees. “We’ve had nice weather the last few weeks without any rain to slow farmers down. Harvesting this crop earlier than normal is also going to allow farmers to get their corn silage crop out earlier than usual, which may provide better yields for corn silage.”

For photos of Gaskins during harvest, visit news.ca.uky.edu.