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It’s Time For Old Man Winter To Step Aside

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A cold, dry winter is escalating the drought problem in many areas.

I often scroll through my Facebook and Twitter news feeds to get ideas for blog posts. As I perused the comments from my ranching friends from across the country, I could have concluded it was a slow news day, until I realized that everyone was talking about the same thing -- the cold weather.

Whether you live in the South and your idea of cold is below freezing, or if you live in the North and you’ve gotten pretty sick and tired of seeing a negative before the number on your temperature gauge, I think it’s safe to say that many of us in the cattle business are tired of winter.

With March just around the corner, I keep hoping for signs of spring; however, looking at the weather forecast for the week ahead, I don’t think spring is even close to making its arrival.

 

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Driving east a couple of weeks ago for a speaking engagement in Wisconsin, I couldn’t believe the snow drifts that were piled up. However, at home in South Dakota, we’ve barely had any snow cover at all since that first blizzard back in October. It’s been a cold, dry, open winter, and for drought-stricken areas, this is only making matters worse.

I recently came across an article in the The Daily, an Oklahoma-based publication, entitled, “Coldest, Driest Winter In Years Creates Worries For Farmers.” The article gives an idea of how bad things are actually getting for some ranchers.

Here is an excerpt: “The drought impact started being evident in 2011. From fall 2010 to the end of 2011, Oklahoma’s agricultural industry lost about $1 billion. U.S. corn exports were the lowest they had been since 1970, at 715 million bushels, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) data.

“The drought hit Oklahoma and most of the nation with full force. But it didn’t stop there. The Midwest and Plains regions of the nation were estimated to have lost $35 billion in 2012, according to the NDMC data. From 2011 to 2012, ranchers in Oklahoma sold nearly 20% of their cattle because of low feed and water supply.

“At the end of 2013, 71% of Oklahoma was categorized as at least ‘abnormally dry.’ The combination of three cold, dry winters create worse than ‘abnormal’ circumstances for farmers, says Gail Holland, USDA county executive director.”

Read the entire article here, which includes a rancher’s testimony of how he is getting through this tough winter.

How is the weather this winter in your neck of the woods? Are you getting any moisture? What is the drought status in your area? Share with us in the comments section below.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 7

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 27, 2014

Here in Alabama we are having a colder winter than in recent years. The ground froze here for the first time in a couple of years. We have also had two snow events, one of which shut central Alabama down for two days. As for drought, thankfully, that is not an issue. It has rained every three or four days pretty much all winter. The mud however, is knee deep,making feeding hay a big mess no matter what you do. On the bright side we're getting into the 70's during the day and the fescue and ryegrass are starting to really get going. We are thankfull for the rain, but would like to see things dry out a little.

n karpis (not verified)
on Feb 27, 2014

1000 round bales will take me through a normal winter after de stocking 300 cows. this year I am buying hay my wheat pasture was not available for my calves . to cold for growth . we prayed for global warming. now we found out the culprit is climate change. the culprit co2 how will my vegetation grow without co2. climate has been changing longer than people have been on earth

on Feb 28, 2014

And it will keep changing long after we're gone.

RODNEY ECKHARDT (not verified)
on Feb 27, 2014

HERE IN CENTRAL TEXAS WE ARE IN THE EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT CATEGORY. WE HAVE HAD NO RAIN SINCE DECEMBER 10,2013. I SOLD A LOT OF COWS IN 2011 AND WILL SOON HAVE TO SELL MORE AS I AM DOWN TO ABOUT 100 RD. BALES. MY WINTER WHEAT CROP IS WHITHERING AWAY. WE HAVE ALSO BEEN COLDER THAN NORMAL. WE ARE TRYING TO KEEP A POSITIVE OUTLOOK ON LIFE.

on Feb 27, 2014

Here in Western Montana, we just got a dump of ~18 inches of snow followed by some sub-zero tempertures. The forecast for tonight is for blizzard conditions and more snow followed by some sub-zero temps again. The longer range predictions, for whatever they are worth, imply more normal weather in March. But what's "normal" when you talk about the weather?

We plan or calving for April so that we can cut our feed costs by being able to turn out on Spring grass in late April or early May and are feeding our best hay to the cows who are in their last trimester. We budget our hay so that we can make it through April/May if we have to and what we don't use we feed first the following year.
We had another abnormally dry fall followed by a snowy, cold snap in early December followed by a warm dry January, followed by a cold and snowy Ferbruary. Since we depend on irrigation water for our pasture and hay ground the up side of all of this is that we have a near record snow pack in the moutnains and that will bode well for our summmer grazing, What I have leaened in my 71 years is that in agriculture, no matter how well you plan and how well implement those plans, the weather is always the joker! If you don't get favorable weather, all the planning and implementation in the world won't help realize your target ouput and there is nothing you can do about it but try to cut your losses. Farmers and ranchers are the biggest optimists in the world because they are always betting that the weather will be favorable. Who needs Las Vegas (Lost Wages?)- just get into agriculture!

Having said that, one of the rewards of all this effort will be to witness first hand the miracle of new life every Spring. The miracle of calving and the greening of the grass that so many take for granted. No matter how many years I witness it, I feel blessed to be able participate in God's mriracle we call Spring.

n karpis (not verified)
on Feb 27, 2014

the pleasure of a long green line of wheat a new born calve etc and always knowing that next year will be greater what keeps us going

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 27, 2014

Open winter in Northeast Mt. No significant moisture since September 2013. Weather is supposed to change in March..

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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