As I am sitting down to write this, it is snowing like crazy outside with a forecast of 6-8” of the fluffy white stuff. Either you are one of those that love the snow and cold or one of those who prefer to stay inside where it is warm. However, as a farmer, you don’t really get a choice in the matter. You are required to brave the elements every day whether it is snowing like a banshee and freezing or if it is as hot as the dickens and the sweat is pouring off of you. Like most people, I don’t give the weather a second thought as I go about my days unless of course, the weather is going to interfere with me doing something or going somewhere. You, our great farmers, however, do have to consider and plan accordingly for all-weather occurrences.
How Does the Weather Affect Your Planning for the Farm?
The agricultural world is highly dependent on weather conditions. Weather extremes are huge hurdles when it comes to farming and not just crop farming. They can cause instant stress to both crops and livestock, and which, if you are not properly prepared, can cause you extra costs. Since you can’t fight the weather or prevent it from coming, you must adapt your tried and true plans.
We all know that the weather conditions have a direct effect on your crops. If it is a hot and dry year, the crop yields decrease and grazing livestock doesn’t have enough to graze on. If it is too cold during the winter, the soil gets depleted of its nitrogen levels causing issues the following spring. Too much rain can cause issues with planting and harvesting, wet ground can cause your machinery to get stuck in the fields-meaning delays for you to get it unstuck and back to work. Hurricanes, tornados, hail, high winds can severely damage all of your crops, leaving your fields in a dire mess. You can’t sell the damaged crop, thus leaving you with huge financial losses. The weather also plays a part in pest control and whether or not, you will need to use extra pest control on your crops. A mild winter and the pests don’t get killed off like they typically do.
Weather also affects your livestock. You have to worry about making sure that if there is going to be a long, cold, harsh winter with temperatures dipping past freezing about how your animals, especially the young ones will survive. Having the proper items like warming jackets/blankets, heated barns, etc. can help minimize the effects of cold stress and the likelihood of livestock death. The extreme heat also can affect the livestock, like decreased milk supply and will need more cool water to drink, shade from the sun, and extra fans going in the barns to help with the heat and humidity.
How Do You Make Plans for Your Farm Concerning the Weather?
It goes beyond just watching the local weather on the news or checking your weather app on your phone throughout the day. I am guilty of constantly checking the weather app on my phone, just to see if anything has changed throughout the day and may wreck any plans that I have for the evening or upcoming weekend. Your weather planning has to occur weeks and months in advance plus add in any changes that may come along, your livelihood and profitability rely on it.
You have to look at years past and this year’s predictions to make the most informed decisions that you can. The Farmer’s Almanac is your best friend-however at best it is only 80% correct. You need to know this information, so you can properly plant, fertilize, harvest, etc. You also have to figure in the wind, something I NEVER thought about until I lived in Iowa, surrounded by cornfields. It is so very windy here, almost constantly. In my area, it is common to have wind gusts over 40mph on any given day, season doesn’t matter! I can only imagine the planning and extra work it takes to compensate for that when you are spraying for pests. You also have to invest in extra heating/cooling for your livestock for extreme heat or cold temperatures. Making sure that you have heaters, calf jackets, extra bedding, etc. for a polar vortex that may creep its way in during January or February. Having areas of shade, extra barn fans, cold water for that brutal July sun.
What Does the Weather for 2021 Look Like?
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, we are in for a wild ride. Boy, I thought 2020 was rough, now we are going to have to be on the lookout for the weather too! Yikes! They are predicting everything from cold and snowy for most of the midwest and plains, into the Rockies. Dry in the Southwest Desert areas and everything in-between for most everyone else. Looks like it will be an interesting year, no matter where you live. I think we all need to hang on because the craziness from 2020 is now going to be hanging on for at least the winter months of 2021. They are also predicting a hotter than normal summer.
Preparing Your Farm for Weather Extremes
What can you do to prepare for the weather? Be prepared before it starts! Here are a few simple steps to help you and your farm be more prepared the next time the extreme weather decides to throw you for a loop.
Take Inventory: Know where everything is on your farm, marking your livestock, checking your supplies, making sure that you have enough supplies on hand in case of an emergency.
Prepare Employees: Make sure all employees know what to do in case of a weather emergency, review these routinely as part of your protocols. Also, make sure that you have emergency contact information for all employees, owners, family members, etc.
Check Equipment: Keep your back up generators, propane tanks, other machinery maintained and serviced if needed on a regular schedule. It would be awful if one of the machines went down during a crisis. Calves can and will be born when they are ready and the weather is not a concern.
Check Insurance: Make sure you meet with your insurance representative to make sure that everything you own is properly covered. You should review your plan routinely to ensure that the coverage is enough.
Whoever thinks that farmers have it easy, is crazy! A simple thing like the weather outside never enters a person’s mind unless it is going to interfere with their day, vacation plans, or if they just don’t like the rain, cold, or grey. Farmer’s constantly have to plan and replan their days according to the weather and what possible extremes it may throw at you during any given season. Just like your ancestors before you, you will continue to weather the storms that come along.