Producers facing weather related challenges
With little snow cover and above average temperatures west of the river, and below average temperatures and deep snow cover east of the river, South Dakota producers faced different challenges in January, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, South Dakota Field Office, Feb. 2.
Average snow depth for the state on Jan. 31 is 5.7 inches. County road conditions in the state were rated at 98 percent open and 2 percent difficult. Township road conditions were rated at 92 percent open, 6 percent difficult and 2 percent closed. Farm activities focused on routine chores, hauling and marketing grain, tending to livestock, repairing machinery and financial planning for 2009.
Two major cold outbreaks, one mid-month and the second around Jan. 24 and 25, hit most of the state with well below 0 F temperatures, according to the State Climate Office of South Dakota. The mid-month outbreak brought the coldest temperatures since February 1996 to the southeast part of the state. The coldest temperature recorded in the state was -47 F at Pollock on Jan. 15. Many other stations went below -30 F. The southwest generally was warmer for the month with Porcupine recording the state high at 66 F on Jan. 21.
Snow has greatly impacted the temperature situation for the month. Generally the snowpack has covered about the northeast half of the state, although nearly all areas have received some snow. The most consistently covered area has been east of the river. The deepest amounts have been in the northeastern corner where areas still have over 12 inches on the ground. This has helped temperatures stay colder east of the river and be somewhat warmer west of the river. Nearly all stations east of the Missouri River were below average in January. The far northeast corner was 6 to 8 F below average. Stations west of the river were warmer with areas of the Black Hills into the southern part of the state coming in 4 to 6 F above average for the month. The recent warming has also helped to reduce the area of snow pack.
Several snowfall events occurred during the month. Areas around the Black Hills and scattered areas east of the river accumulated the most snowfall. A swath from northwest to southeast across the state received below average precipitation for the month.
Soil temperatures were at or below freezing statewide. The lowest four-inch soil temperature was recorded in Brookings at 24 F. The highest soil temperature was recorded in Beresford at 31 F. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, only 0.6 percent of the state, an area in far southwestern Fall River county is rated as D0 (Abnormally Dry). Last year at this time 53.1 percent of the state was rated D0 or drier.
Much of the state has very little snow cover, leaving some producers worried about protection for winter crops. Winter wheat condition is rated as 5 percent poor, 46 percent fair, 41 percent good, and 8 percent excellent, and snow cover for wheat is rated as 59 percent poor, 37 percent adequate, and 4 percent excellent. Alfalfa snow cover is rated as 33 percent poor, 54 percent adequate, and 13 percent excellent. A few reporters stated that a small percentage of corn and sunflowers was harvested in January, with some acres left to be harvested in the spring.
Cold temperatures across the state affected livestock in South Dakota, but adequate feed supplies have prevented major death losses in cattle and sheep. Feed supplies are rated 95 percent adequate to surplus, up three percentage points from last year. Stock water supplies are rated 91 percent adequate to surplus, up 17 percentage points from last year. Cattle conditions are rated 84 percent good to excellent, with newborn calf deaths rated at 10 percent below average, 85 percent average, and 5 percent above average. Cattle death losses were rated at 8 percent below normal, 89 percent normal, and 3 percent above normal. Sheep conditions are rated 77 percent good to excellent, with sheep and lamb deaths rated 3 percent below average, 89 percent average, and 8 percent above average.