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Good omen or bad?

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Not everyone is enjoying the unseasonably mild weather these days, with many district farmers wondering if this early thaw is the harbinger of another dry year.

Kim Jo Calder, manager at the Emo Research Station, said all the snow has melted in the fields although there has been very little run off from the thaw.

"Right now, what I’m fearing is drought," she admitted. "Not having enough moisture in the spring for pasture and hay.

"In our barnyard, it’s wet. But when you’re looking at the fields, it’s brown," she added. "It’s drying up elsewhere."

"Just looking at the creeks, there’s not a lot of standing water," echoed Gary Sliworsky, Ag and Rural rep for the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs office in Emo.

"A lot of the area went into the fall pretty dry," he noted. "We need some moisture this season."

Sliworsky said it’s still too early to tell whether this will be a bad year or not. In fact, having an early spring could be a benefit to some farmers.

"If we get adequate moisture, guys will get a great head start," he said. "I don’t think [the early thaw] is too bad as long as we get the moisture."

With all the worry about a possible drought this summer, ironically, the big problem many farmers are facing right now is too much moisture in the ground for calving season.

Not only has the early spring melted the snow from the fields, it’s started to thaw the ground. Although the frost isn’t completely out yet, it is getting pretty swampy in many places.

"It’s a little wetter than you’d like it to be for calving," Sliworsky said, noting excessive wetness allows for disease and other problems to abound.

Normally February is the perfect time for calving since it tends to be a dry month, Calder noted. But not this year.

"It’s really hard to keep your cattle dry," she said. "There could be a lot of scours as a result.

"I know a lot of people are enjoying [the weather] but I’d rather have winter instead of swamp," she stressed.

Meanwhile, Sliworsky didn’t think the spring-like weather will hold completely until summer. According to one person he talked to, weather conditions were almost identical back in February, 1966, then the area was bombarded with five feet of snow in March.

"I just can’t believe we won’t see any more snow," he said. "I’m not putting my snow shovel away."

Still, the threat of another bone-dry year looms--a threat most district farmers would rather not face.

"When you’re talking about not having hay and pasture . . . ." Calder said, letting her sentence drop off. "Right now, it doesn’t look good."

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