Farm News

Farming Through the Snowstorm

This past week’s winter storm left an impact in our area. The National Weather Service reported that there was a total accumulation of 10-12 inches of snow throughout McLean, Tazewell, and Logan County. Temperatures were recorded with highs in the low 20s (Fahrenheit) and will continue to stay below freezing until Tuesday. The partially sunny forecast should help melt the snow, along with the above freezing temperatures. Although the snow can cause issues like a slushy mess or drive in, there are some benefits that farmers will get from the snow. 

Snow helps to provide moisture for growing crops. Although there are no crops planted now, as the snow melts the moisture makes its way down into the soil. The soil will store the moisture and have it ready to help growing crops. Also, the snow on top of the ground can help preserve the moisture that is already there. Snow will also insulate dormant crops such as wheat. During the really cold temperatures, especially at night, the snow will help to protect dormant crops. Snowflakes have a trace amount of nitrogen in them. So, the snow can help put a little bit of nitrogen into the ground, which will help growing crops in the spring. Especially with the prices of nitrogen right now, any bit can help! A farmer can help to stop the issue of snow drifting onto the roads if they have a no till operation. No till fields provide a bit of a barrier for the blowing snow. Snow can actually be considered valuable in many field situations for farmers. 

On the flip side, the winter weather is not all great for our farmers. Farmers with livestock have to make sure their animals are taken care of no matter what the weather is. So, while many of us got days off of work and school, farmers can not stop their work. A lot of the issues that the snow could present to a livestock operation is dependent on how the operation is set up. Snow accumulation may prevent vehicle access to where animals or feed are located. It may also trap animals from being able to reach shelter. So, the farmers keep a close watch on their animals and make sure they are in a safe spot. Farmers will have to feed grazing animals another way if the area they graze on becomes covered by snow or ice. Also, drifting snow can cause damage to shelters and fences. Colorado State University (CSU) provides information on what a farmer may do to prepare for a winter storm to keep their livestock safe. For shelter, farmers will move animals into a shelter with food before or immediately at the beginning of a storm. Farmers will have plans for how they will handle ways that snow may drift and block gates, doors, roads, etc. For feed, they will make sure to have more than enough feed that they can give to their animals. For water, they make sure that the animals have enough and that there is no ice in the water containers. These are only a few of the things that farmers do for their animals to prepare for a winter storm. 

A local farmer, Darren Davis, explained what he does to prepare for a snow storm with his pigs. “You make sure that you have plenty of feed. You want to have enough for if you were going to be snowed in for a couple days. You insulate the water to make sure it won’t freeze. It is important to check that all of the pigs are inside the barn. You check that the heater has enough LP to keep the shed warm. Also, you bed them (the animals) down with straw.”  

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