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Pros & Cons of our cold spring season

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 30th, 2013

This cow-calf pair were waiting for spring just as much as the rest of us. Just last week, they could enjoy the fresh dirt which suddenly appeared thanks to the warm weather, despite some residual snow shown in the foreground of this photo.

Moody County has had a very strange last two years of weather. Last year it got warm much earlier than normal and stayed dry and warm throughout most of the year. This year we have had the snow melt, and come back with over a foot of snow. For most people, this weather has resulted in poor driving conditions but as an agricultural community, how has this affected our farmers?

“From last year, we are going to be about a month behind,” Joe Knippling, the FSA County Executive Director said referring to the start date of most farmers getting their crop in the ground. “We had farmers getting started in March last year and most were done by the second and third week of April,” he added.

Since the second and third weeks of April have passed, farmers are clearly going to be behind last year’s pace, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad thing.

“Most people already have their seed in their barns or spoken for so they will be able to get going right away,” Knippling said. “One of the biggest concerns will be what day corn you are going to plant.”

The over a foot of snow Moody County has had dumped on them since “SPRING” started at the end of March, could actually be a good thing.

“With the moisture we got, it shouldn’t be a big deal,” Harvey Shafer of the Conservation District said. “The thing that is going to deter it now is if the soil temp comes up.”

But it really just depends on the farmer and where they are located. The west side of the interstate is usually a week or so behind the east side and some farmers have different luck than others.

“I have had a few farmers tell me that if they are a week behind schedule, they will lose about five bushel in their yields,” Knippling said.

If farmers do not get their crop in by early June, their yield numbers will decrease by certain percentage for every day that they plant after the deadline according to their crop insurance, but that is still over a month away.

“Right now they are going to beat that deadline easily with the equipment they have,” Shafer mentioned. According to the two men, it took about 20 days for Moody County to plant a majority (about 80%) of their corn last year.

The ground is still dryer than they want it according to Shafer who had a chemical test done in January that showed Moody County still needed 16 inches of moisture to be where they wanted. The wet spring actually produced 138% above normal moisture for that time but the ground still needs about 12 inches to be back to complete normal.

The best thing, according to Shafer, that could happen with the weather over the next two weeks is dry, 60-degree temps with 10-15 mile-per-hour winds with above freezing temperatures at night. “If we do get moisture, we hope it comes in a nice warm rain.” Shafer added,

The weather did however take a slight toll on the cattle industry. The cold spring kept many cattle farmers up 24-hours checking on their newborn calves. From a small sample size, most farmers lost more sleep than they did cattle over the cold spell.

One of the biggest concerns over this time period was in direct affect of last years poor weather, making feed for cattle a bit sparse and the lingering snow this year caused farmers to use more of it since the cattle could not graze.

But with far too many unpredictable days between now and harvest season, it is hard to tell if this cold spring will negatively, or positively impact Moody County farmers.

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