Snow is great but need even more moisture

The region has been covered by snow since December 13, and it likley is not all going to melt away anytime soon as daytime temperatures are supposed to stay cold.
Six straight weeks with snow on the ground, and still counting, is the longest stretch in about 15 years or more, when a couple of big storms hit the area in December 2006 and January 2007.
Yuma has received well above a foot of snow thanks to a series of storms since that first one hit in December.
The snow, though a hassle, is a welcomed development as the area has been mired in a years-long drought.
However, just how much precipitation is actually in all of that snow, and how much of an impact will it really have?
“It’s going to help because we were pretty dry getting into early December,” local agronomist Merlin VanDeraa said. “We’ve had enough moisture for a good start to the spring, especially wheat.”
Determining precipitation in snow is done by melting the snow that has fallen in the precipitation gauge and measuring the liquid as is done for rainfall. On average, 13 inches of snow equals one inch of rain.
The CoAgMet weather station at the Irrigation Research Foundation site north of Yuma shows approximately 7/10ths of an inch of precipitation since the first snow in mid-December.
That definitely is an improvement compared to recent winters.
So who is happier right now than a wheat farmer?
“Anyone who has cattle, grass, any kind of dryland, is happy, even the irrigators,” VanDeraa said. “…It’s not enough to completely get us out of trouble, but it’s definitely a lot better than it has been.”
Jordan Willeke, a wheat farmer in the Otis area, said that the snow is fantastic from a farmer’s perspective, but there still is a ways to go to make up for the moisture deficit in the soil.
The moisture should help grasslands for grazing later in the year. However, for now it has presented more challenges to ranchers, who are having to supply hay and supplemental feed to their herds, all the while dealing with snow-covered conditions and cold temperatures.
Local rancher Bob Rahm said he has had to move most of his cows home to feed because all they have to eat in the cornfields is the top of the stalk that is above the snow. There is not much nutritional value in that.
He noted now is the time for a cow that is going to calve in 30 to 40 days to have more nutrition for their growing baby.
“The challenge is to keep your cows in good enough shape to have a baby, and provide enough colostrum for the calf to ward off all the bacteria there will be because of all the mud and wetness there will be at calving time,” Rahm said.
Why not plan to calve later and save on the feed?
Rahm said it does not matter this year because one still is going to have to feed with all the snow on the ground, unless it melts, which does not seem likely at this point.
Rahm added that feed prices are about double of normal years.
“Pretty sure calf prices won’t be double, so this year will be a big financial hit to the cattle people because of the extra feed cost this winter,” he said.
There could be a bit more snow Saturday and Monday. However, it is the cold temperatures forecasted that will keep the snow around. The extended forecast early this week showed overnight temperatures below zero Sunday through Wednesday with daytime highs in the low double figures, and a high below 10 degrees on Monday.