South Dakota Grassland Coalition

by Garnet Perman

March 2019

The calendar may indicate spring, however many South Dakota producers are still working around large piles of snow. According to the National Weather Service, February 2019 made the top ten in record books around the state in terms of cold temperatures and snow fall. Winter grazing ended for most producers around the first of February. A rare central U.S. bomb cyclone March 10-11 hit the state hard with heavy snow in the west and central with rain and flooding in the east and south.

I spoke with several producers in different areas of the state to determine how they handled the extreme cold and snow and what they expect to deal with as it appears there will be a muddy season ahead.

Dallas Anderson

Near Eureka, dealt with record amounts of snow and temperatures that hovered in the single digits either side of zero all of February and into March. Plenty of good quality feed and an adequate mineral program have kept his cattle in good condition. Late spring calving makes a hard winter easier to handle mentally and physically. He’ll spread out bedding to help combat muddy conditions until he can get the cattle on grass.

Bart Carmichal

Faith rancher, was able to winter graze up until February 1. His herd is fed wheat hay daily and extra alfalfa hay every other day. He reported that the cows are holding condition well. He calves 45 days later than he did in 1997. His mineral feeder got snowbound in the pasture, requiring some effort to extricate.

Jim Kopriva

lives west of Watertown. Because they sell breeding stock and many of his customers calve in February, he and son Lee are now calving synchronized heifers. Good wind protection and a calving barn that he admits could use some improvement got them through this year’s March blizzard. They were able to graze corn stalks with supplemental alfalfa and cover crops until mid-January. Kopriva said a late spring might create more problems than the cold weather. He anticipates some flooding at their ranch, resulting in mud which can cause health problems. A year that demanded feeding more than usual during the winter and into the spring might result in short hay supplies for some producers. He also expects to be fixing fence once the thaw arrives.

Reid Suelflow

lives in White Lake and travels to the ranch. Getting there was problematic at times because of road conditions. He’s been feeding since early February. He calves in May and weans in the winter. He believes his steer calves were lighter than expected because of the weather but sold well in the light calf market. His heifers still have calves at side, a decision that was weather driven. He has stockpiled grass he’ll feed later than anticipated. Rain during the last storm induced flooding on Platte Creek which may alter some spring grazing plans.

Some take-aways
Harsh weather demands extra time and attention, however these producers were content with how their cattle handled the conditions. Most expressed gratitude that the snow and cold didn’t begin until the end of January. The logistics of being able to access feed and equipment as well as poor driving conditions created most of the headaches. Flexibility remains an important tool in adverse weather. No one regrets making the switch to late spring calving from a calving or marketing perspective. The prospect of muddy conditions in the near future wasn’t a big concern for these producers if they can turn cows out on grass within a week or two. The longest lasting repercussion of the winter is the time it will take to fix fence. The good news is that everyone is looking forward to a good grass year!

Source: SDGC Newsletter

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