Weather gives break to farmers

Mother Nature seems to be making up for the overly wet spring and summer by giving district producers a mild, easy winter so far for their livestock to weather.
Although the long-range forecast calls for more seasonable temperatures to arrive in the next week or so, last night’s expected low of minus-nine C (15 F) was just a shade off what usually is the normal high of minus-eight (17).
And nothing yet has come close to the normal low for this time of year, which is about minus-18 (two below zero).
Gary Sliworsky, local ag rep for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs in Emo, said the mild weather has had some definite advantages.
“Cattle don’t necessarily have to be out in the yards, and they would have been able to start later on feed and not have to feed as much compared to normal years,” he noted.
“Cold, windy weather would require higher feed requirements,” he added. “[This weather] is easier on the animals, easier on the feed inventory.”
While there is some danger of heaving if a sudden cold snap sets in due to the lack of snow cover, Sliworsky said he couldn’t think of any real drawback to the unseasonably mild weather up until now.
“I think we had six mm of precipitation in November so things dried up quite a bit and quite nicely,” he noted, adding more than twice the normal rainfall fell here between April and October.
“Some plow work got done that farmers thought they wouldn’t be able to get to because it got so nice and dry,” he remarked.
Peter Spuzak, who runs a cow/calf operation just west of town, likes to joke that December technically isn’t winter; rather, it’s still officially fall. But for the first time in a long while, Spuzak’s joke isn’t funny–it’s the truth.
“We’ve saved ourselves almost a couple of months of heavy hard weather,” Spuzak said. “We saved ourselves on putting them on heavy, heavy winter feed, and the cattle are in good condition because of it.
“So it won’t be that hard of a winter,” he predicted.
And that’s a good thing, both Spuzak and Sliworsky noted, considering the quality of the hay this year isn’t great due to the wet conditions this summer.
“The less animals get stressed by cold weather, the better,” Sliworsky said.
Perhaps the most ironic thing about this winter, Spuzak noted, is that while it’s perfect to hold over cattle to spring, farmers are seeing some of the highest prices before Christmas ever.
“I think people are caught between whether they should keep or sell cattle,” he explained. “I just came from a cattlemen’s meeting and talking to the feed lot people, they just can’t get enough.
“And the prices seem to be projecting to stay right up there–if not higher,” he stressed.
Still, Spuzak admitted prices still have to get much higher before farmers fully recover production costs on their cattle. Plus winter isn’t over, he warned, with a good chunk of December left and January and February to get through.
But with the last year marking the first time in a long while cattle prices moved up instead of down, Spuzak is willing to take as much nice weather as Mother Nature will dish out.
“People are thinking we’re going to pay for it later but I think we’ve already paid for it,” he added. “We needed a break.”