Rains welcome, but farmers need more
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This article was published 25/05/2021 (560 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The weekend rains meant a lot to area farmers, but they’ll need much more than that to make it through the year.
Keystone Agricultural Producers president Bill Campbell uses the “12-inch ruler” metric.
“It’d be ideal if we had 12 inches of rain throughout the growing season for the crop, and right now we have one inch,” he said, adding that while the weekend rains were encouraging, “we’re not near the finish line yet.”
On the plus side, he said the rains should be enough to get most crops germinated throughout Westman, with those crops sowed now having enough moisture to get started.
“The rest will be kind of up to Mother Nature and how much rain, how much heat — God forbid any frost or anything like that, but it certainly brings a welcome relief in light of the period of time we’ve gone this spring without moisture.”
From a cattle producer’s perspective, the rains will help forage growth, but won’t be enough to fill the low or empty dugouts found throughout Westman.
“I think on average it probably worked out to about an inch to an inch and a half, but as far as the impact on surface water sources for livestock watering, it has not moved the needle on that issue,” Manitoba Beef Producers president Tyler Fulton said. “There really wasn’t any runoff to speak of.”
Standing in a pasture near Birtle when contacted by phone Sunday, Fulton said it was amazing to see what has happened to the plant life in only the last few days.
“It’s come alive.”
Deep into drought conditions despite recent rains, he said cattle farmers throughout Westman are making some tough decisions.
It varies from region to region, with those in the province’s northernmost agricultural land finding more moisture than those to the south, but the overall picture is one of dry conditions.
At his farm near Birtle, Fulton was originally planning on retaining 180 replacement heifers, but ended up keeping only 80.
“We’re still kind of in a mode where we may still move more of those heifers,” he said.
The weekend rains gave them a wiggle room of a couple weeks before more decisions need to be made, and it remains a wait and see situation.
“The theme for most livestock producers in southern Manitoba is that the dugouts and surface water sources are not going to be sufficient to make it through the summertime,” he said.
“To be completely frank, we would have to have some exceptional rain events in order to recharge some of those dugouts.”
These exceptional rains typically happen in the spring, but it’s not impossible for these rain events to take place in the summer, as last year’s summer storms in Westman proved.
Although striving to maintain a sense of optimism, Campbell said it’ll likely be touch and go for a while.
“All growing season is going to be week by week, or every two weeks there’ll be new assessments to see where we’re at, and hopefully there’ll be continued rainfall throughout the growing season.”
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB