All the snow this winter has been good for the soil, not so much for livestock. Contributed photo by Jim Wood

Winter has been good for the soil, not livestock in Central Alberta

All the snow this winter have been a boon and a bane for farmers in Central Alberta.

Jim Wood, Red Deer County Mayor, whose family’s farm has been in operation since 1906 east of Elnora, said the snow has been good for the fields this winter.

He said it’s important the soil is covered in snow during winters so it doesn’t dry out.

Looking ahead, Wood said he is hoping for a slow-snow-melt, so the moisture soaks into the ground.

“Through this season, we’re hoping we have a dry spell in order to get the crops planted, and then hoping it will continue to rain, as needed, for the big crop that we’re always striving to produce,” said Wood.

The local politician isn’t the only one hoping for rain this spring and summer.

Harry Brook, a crop specialist at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry based in Stettler, said Central Alberta farmers will be relying on rainfall this season “to make the crop this year.”

Brook said despite the large dumps of snow this winter, the amount of moisture from the snow, is “very little” compared to rain.

He said around late fall last year, there was a period when the ground was exposed to freezing temperatures, which means, the spring run-off may not be absorbed into the soil.

“We had bare ground basically exposed, so that seals the soil up, so when the snow does melt, most of it is going to run off,” said Brook.

Brook said the lack of moisture and dry springs especially hurt crops like canola that have to be seeded shallow into the ground.

“With wheat or barley, you can seed them deeper, where the soil still retains moisture,” said Brook.

The snow may have helped Central Alberta fields this winter, but not the livestock.

Both Wood and Brook said livestock needs to stay warm and dry during winters.

Wood said the colder it is, the more feed they use.

“It seems like it’s been a long cold winter, and we have used lot of feed, that’s for sure,” said Wood.

Brook said winters are hard for cattle especially during calving.

“It’s not good for cattle to calve out in the snow which means you’ve got to do heavy bedding, lots of straws,” said Brook.

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