Livestock feeding, care among heavy snowfall challenges

Marion County Farm Bureau President and local farmer Joe Kendrick have been meeting various challenges posed by Winter Storm Gia's heavy snowfall, as fellow farmers prepare for more snow in the forecast for the weekend.

Kendrick said he measured 16 inches of snow at his farm, and its wet consistency made it difficult to move and prone to turn to ice when packed down. He worked to move snow so the hogs had clear places to lie down. The ground underneath the snow was not frozen, so muddy conditions further complicated the workday.

“It's been a challenge just getting around and getting livestock fed,” he said.

Kendrick said teamwork is key for farmers in the area and commended crew members from the Marion County Highway Department for their recent assistance. His road was not clear enough for a semi truck to safely travel down to deliver livestock feed, so county crew members cleared a wider path and applied cinders for traction. Kendrick brought a plate of cookies to their office to thank them for their help.

Kendrick said many local farmers deal with the slick conditions as they transport grain from their farms. Some weather experts are calling for a late, wet spring, Kendrick said, and farmers are looking at demand-related spikes in the prices for anhydrous ammonia and fertilizer due to the logistics of getting the products to each farm at the right time.

Kendrick said he recently visited with seed dealers as he looked ahead to the spring. Brent Hoerr, who farms on the Mississippi River bottoms, has been busy attending meetings in St. Louis over the past couple days as he shares information and projections for the coming months.

“It's not good weather for driving in meetings season,” he said with a chuckle.

He echoed Kendrick's comments that it's crucial to maintain equipment and keep livestock safe and dry on the farm. “[Farmers] who have livestock, it's a challenge with water and feeding and keeping livestock dry and safe,” he said. “There's a lot challenges, when you have grain to move and the roads are icy, it's not a good time — you have to try to be safe.”

About half the snow had melted from underneath Thursday on Kendrick's farm, boosting subsoil moisture levels after heavy rains last month. The muddy conditions made getting around tough in the fields, but he said that increased moisture levels will benefit farmers when planting season comes.

Some of the creeks and ditches began to flow as the snow continued to melt. Kendrick said 10-12 inches of snow are about the same as an inch of rainfall.

“It's definitely going to be a benefit going into spring,” he said.