No rest for the ag producer
Area residents not directly involved with agriculture tend to be aware of the peak seasons for farmers and ranchers, whether it's vagrant sugar beets on the road during harvest or sounds of loud equipment and allergies from tilling and planting i...
Area residents not directly involved with agriculture tend to be aware of the peak seasons for farmers and ranchers, whether it’s vagrant sugar beets on the road during harvest or sounds of loud equipment and allergies from tilling and planting in the spring. But what do the region’s agriculturalists do during the winter months? And is there an off-season for these hardworking folks?
“If you have cattle or livestock, there is no offseason,” says Walsh County Extension agent Brad Brummond. “Dairy farmers will milk twice a day. and every day they’ll feed cattle and clean barns. My beef guys will be hauling hay, grinding feed and, of course, they’ll be feeding cattle.”
As a livestock producer, there’s no time to rest, especially during calving season, which Brummond says has already begun for many area operations. But it is the harsh winter environment that has most area ranchers aiming for calving season at the beginning of April.
“Dairy guys, they never geta day off,” Brummond says.
And sheep producers are preparing to lamb, too, which, just as with cattle, can be a time-consuming, sleepless period for the operation. The careful attention given to sheep to ensure the mothers and their lambs maintain regulated temperature, healthy diet and dry coat isa ’roundthe-clock routine.
Even with snow-covered fields and the inability to grow crops year-round, the region’s farmers are busy preparing for the upcoming planting season in spring by fixing and preparing machinery and purchasing equipment needed to get the job done.
Others are continuing the careful storage process of their crops and moving them to processors.
“Potato farmers are washing potato bins and loading potato trucks,” Brummond says. “That involves getting crews, sorting and loading. Crop farmers with sugar beets, potatoes, dry beans - a lot of them have heated shops, so they’ll be fixing equipment, selling grain, getting some of their licenses up to date, and obtian some of the things they need to have to run a farm business.”
In addition, farmers and ranchers are attending many informational meetings set up by area Extension offices and crop and livestock organizations.
And as they’re attending meetings and preparing machinery for planting, farmers are paying special attentiont to the status of stored crops. Brummond says the recent weather can cause concern for crops, which then can become timeconsuming regulation of bin temperature and moisture- no simple task.
Some farmers leave the area for warmer climates, if they don’t have livestock or other winter duties, and will return in the spring to see the growing and harvest seasons through. These farmers tend to be the “more mature farmers,” Brummond says.
But staying on the farm and obtaining a second job is common, he says. “It still occurs. We have guys who work at implement dealers in the winter, or as mechanics and truck drivers. I’ve got agood friend who has an accounting degree and does farm taxes on the side. I’ve got guys that have other professional degrees and guys with teaching degrees that substitute teach in the winter.”
Young farmers tend to make up a large majority of those who manage their farms and maintain second jobs through the winter, because it’s difficult for them to build a farm from scratch, Brummond says. It’s especially hard for young people to get started without the help of family equity, which is why many of them pick up sugar beet factory or truck-driving positions.
Brummond says a farmer and rancher will do whatever it takes to keep up.
One thing’s for certain, regardless of farmer age and experience level, every day of the year is filled with opportunity to improve and maintain their agricultural livelihood. Come rain, snow or shine.