FARMER FOCUS: struggling with a huge snowstorm

“Even in a drought it rains.” In this case it snows; we had 30cm of snow last week, and as I write this piece, another 30cm is forecast. Getting 60cm in less than a week is unheard of here and with the temperature still at 33F (0.5C), I am beginning to doubt the forecasters.

Spring calving is in full force and the weather has proved to be problematic. All cattle here are “outwintered” and most of us are ill-equipped to house more than a few head at a time in inclement weather. I have 19 head, mostly first calf heifers, crowded into a barn more suited for eight.

Our snow last week came without wind, but with thunder and lightning. I had double-fed the night before in anticipation of the roads being impassable. However, I got a phone call saying that one of my neighbours (aged 89) had decided to brave the snow to go to town for morning coffee and was stuck on the low water bridge. After a couple hours of tractor work, I was able to get it back up the hill and into their garage.

I heard at least 20 times “it hadn’t snowed much at all when we left the house”. The entire episode brought back memories of my grandfather, who did the same thing several times, with similar protests of how the weather had suddenly changed about a half mile from the house. As luck would have it, later that evening I got stuck in the snow with my pickup across the road from his son’s house, and he had to pull me out.

In a little over a month it will be time to plant maize. March is a transition month here on the Plains and we can have days in the 80s with dry south-west winds then three or four days later, snow. Hopefully, by the time I write my next column, we will have some real drought relief in sight.

Brian Hind farms 1,250ha of prairie land in Greenwood county, Kansas, America, of which 770ha is family owned plus the rest is rented. Of this, 330ha is arable cropping with maize, soya, grain sorghum, alfalfa plus a mix of rye, triticale and turnips for grazing by 200 beef cattle. Grassland is used to produce hay.

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