Many southeastern Manitoba farmers, that have been asking for rain for the past two years, are now asking for dryer, warmer weather.
It appears that with all the snow and rain in April, drought conditions may be coming to an end this year, however, local farmers did not expect the answer to their prayers would bring new stresses.
Richard Carr, from Richlane Farms near Marchand says, “these past weeks have been challenging to say the least.” Carr and his wife have been farming beef and dairy cows in the southeast since 2010.
He says the weather has made things a lot busier these days, “we have the dairy, so that's an all-day-every-day thing. We’ve got a barn for that. But we also have the beef herd. The cows are calving right now and with the snow and all the weather we've been having, it just makes things a little more challenging."
"When I checked the cows last week, I got my 4-wheeler stuck in about 2 1/2 feet of snow. It's melted off now, but there's still places where there's a decent amount of snow along the tree lines. But then it melts, and the next enemy comes along, mud. So, we're going to be battling some kind of problem for a while.”
Carr says, this is their typical calving season, but the colder wet weather is unusual. “The calves are being born in the cold so we need to attend to them as soon as we can. And, because there's lots of snow and it's wet, we're putting out lots of bedding to keep the cows dry and comfortable. But quite often when the cow wants to calve, she wants to have her own space, so she'll go off into the corner of a bush. So, a lot of the calves are just born on the ground in the snow. The moms will get up and lick them right away, but quite often these calves are very chilly, so we have to go out there, get the calf, bring it back into the barn, warm it up for a couple of hours and then take him back. It's a little bit extra. It's working, it's just extra work.”
Richlane farms also have several hundred acres every year where they plant corn and alfalfa. Carr is looking forward to getting out on the field soon. He says over the past couple of years “we've definitely been a lot drier than normal. I would say as far as the province goes, we've been very fortunate in the southeast to have enough moisture that we had ok crops, not a bumper crop, but we've had decent crops. It definitely has been dry, so I guess these Colorado lows we have been getting are going to be the end to our drought. We hope they're going to have lots of moisture, to get this spring going here, but the timing isn't what we wanted.”
Meanwhile, Ridgewood grain farmer Shayne Barkman, from Barkdale Farms confirms, “We have been dry in the last two years but coming into this winter we've obviously had above average snowfall, which will definitely help replenishthe soil and the soil moisture, probably up to 12 to 16 inches deep. That will provide an early start for the crop, once we get it in. With the rain recently, it will definitely help with early-season moisture.“
Barkman says, “Now, It's going to be more about, ‘when can we get on the field?’ On an average year, we're likely to get on the field either now or in the next couple of days. So obviously it looks like we're going to start off a little bit later than normal, but we're hoping that with good moisture we can get early germination and maybe we'll gain what we had lost. Because of the conditions last year and the year before, when it was too dry even during seeding and even once the crop was established, it was very important to get some timely rains, which we didn't get.”
As a farmer, Barkman says, “We're hoping that after this rain some warm weather and some dryer weather would come our way so that we can get out on the fields and get the seed in the ground.”
But that prayer hasn't been answered, yet. He says with the above-average snowfall amounts and now receiving more rain than needed, they will be waiting a few weeks longer which he thinks may only be in the middle of May.
Barkman does mention that “seeding later, doesn't necessarily mean a smaller crop. It just means that you're starting later than average and so maybe, on the back end you might have to be a little bit more concerned with a potential fall frost.”
The Barkdale Farms family has been growing grain crops in the Ridgewood area since 1965 and is now a third-generation farm.