Snowy, cold winter was a hassle and beneficial

Calving season is nearing an end, and planting season is quickly approaching as the calendar turns to April, following a cold and snowy winter.
It was a tough winter for cow/calf operations, though those whose calves were born later in the winter, March, reportedly had a better time of it.
Travis Taylor, the CSU Livestock Agent for Yuma County, said that based on conversations he has had, calving losses have been higher than normal with the snow and colder weather. He said limited feed is impacting mother cows, but that goes back to the dry summer of 2022 with little grass. Corn field grazing also was cut short by the snow and ice.
Hay and other forages also are more expensive due to the drought, followed by the snowy winter.
Local rancher Bob Rahm cows’ conditions should improve when they are able to start feeding on the coming green grass.
He said most of his operation’s calving went through the barn due to the extremely cold February. He added that with so much snow, a lot of bedding was used, which caused the calves to group up and end up getting stepped on. He said he lost a couple to that, and had another whose broken foot had to be casted.
Rahm noted there were not as many issues with those calving in March.
Clarence Young, another local rancher, said his operation was fortunate to not have many births during the most extreme conditions. He said he had a lot of cows in the barn that had just had calves during the last storm, helping them to dry out.
“Overall, I think luck, guardian angels, and a little bit of preparation for these storms really helped us avoid a few catastrophes,” Young reported.
Rancher Dave Blach noted feed supplies are low, resulting in prices increasing dramatically over the course of the drought.
“This cold has caused some stress on cows resulting in earlier calving dates on some of the cattle,” Blach reported. “Also have had a few more abnormalities of birthing and weaker strength of some cows and calves that is probably due to conditions this year.”
While calving season has been more challenging than usual, all that moisture since mid-December has been a help to a local winter wheat, as well as grazing land.
Local agronomist Merlin VanDeraa said a good rain event last September created better winter wheat drilling conditions than in recent years. Then, some of the weather events in the last two months will help the wheat that was struggling to germinate and help fill in the overall profile.
“I would say 65 to 75 percent of weather events this past winter have been beneficial to everything growing,” VanDeraa said.
A prolonged warm stretch is forecasted to begin at the end of this week.
“It is kind of what the doctor ordered for wheat, and good for calving still to go and the start of corn planting,” VanDeraa said.
Corn planting likely could begin by the middle of April. However, sugar beet planting has been delayed a bit due to the cold soil temperature, but the warming stretch should help get that started as well.
“The winter weather as a whole has been beneficial for just about everything,” VanDeraa said.
However, even though this past winter featured more moisture than one has seen in many years, it still is not enough. The coming months will reveal if more precipitation, hopefully in the form of rain, will arrive, or if we will return to dry, windy conditions.