While the unseasonably mild weather so far this winter is being welcomed by some, district farmers wouldn’t mind if the mercury would fall--along with a bit more snow.
Near record high temperatures this week have made pastures a bit mucky for animals. In fact, local ag rep Gary Sliworsky said it’s becoming hard for farmers to keep their livestock dry.
"It’s not good for them to lie around staying wet," he noted. "You’re laying down straw to keep animals dry and straw is pretty scarce this year."
"It’s a place for disease to start," added Kim Desserre, president of the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture. "Cattle-wise, we’d like to see it a bit below freezing.
"It gets kind of mucky if it’s not frozen."
The mild weather also has removed much of the snow protection for perennial field crops such as hay and clover, Desserre said.
Winter kill could go up drastically without a blanket of snow covering the plants, agreed Sliworsky, especially "if we get that freezing rain again."
One advantage to the mild weather, Desserre noted, was the cattle were eating less hay than they would if the area was experiencing normal December temperatures.
Sliworsky said since the animals aren’t cold, they need to burn less energy to keep themselves warm. And in a year where many farmers had poor forage crops, less is definitely better.
"It’s going to extend an already short feed supply," he added.
But the lack of snow accumulation now could mean a lack of moisture in the spring--something Sliworsky said people already are starting to worry about.
"They think it may be quite dry again next year," he said.
"It probably is a really big concern," echoed Desserre. "We didn’t get a lot of moisture last year. Another dry spring could make it worse."
Desserre said farmers will work with whatever weather Mother Nature, or perhaps "El Nino," throws their way. But she also noted the recent abnormalities make long-range planning quite difficult.
"You sort of gear your farm to what you think is normal for the area," she said. "It hasn’t been normal for the last two or three years.
"When is it ever going to be what we think the Rainy River District will be like again? When is it going to be normal?" she wondered.