Lack of snow cover concerning
The month of December 2012 was mostly normal for temperatures with an average snow depth at the end of the month of 4.0 inches across the state, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, South Dakota Field Office.
As the winter season progresses, producers continue to cope with drought reduced feed supplies and stock water supplies. Livestock were doing well in most areas of the state. County road conditions in the state were rated at 98 percent open and 2 percent difficult. Township road conditions were rated at 93 percent open, 6 percent difficult and 1 percent closed. Major activities last month included moving snow, caring for livestock, moving hay to winter storage, hauling grain and repairing equipment.
December presented some early winter snowfall and hazards across much of the state, according to the State Climate Office of South Dakota. An early December blizzard (Dec. 7 to 9, 2012) and several subsequent smaller snows have created snow cover statewide. More limited snow cover was across much of south central South Dakota where 2 inches or less exist. The heavier amounts are in east central South Dakota where 8 to 10 inches and more are on the ground due to several snow events.
The precipitation is welcomed, though not a major improvement for drought conditions. The overall water amount in the snow is small compared to the longer term deficits. Most of the precipitation in December fell as snow and will have only limited impact on dry soils. The far southeast did receive rain Dec. 15 and 16 helping soil moisture as the rain fell on unfrozen ground.
The peak precipitation for the month was at Clear Lake where a total of 1.51 inches of precipitation fell (melted snow and rain). The least precipitation was at Oelrichs in far southwest South Dakota with 0.16 inches. Nearly 2/3 of the state is still in extreme or exceptional drought on the US Drought Monitor map.
Despite the snow cover over most of the state, temperatures were close to average over much of the state and several degrees above average across the south (where snow cover was less).
Average temperatures ranged from the upper teens in the north to upper 20s south and west. The high temperature for the month was 72 F in Chamberlain on Dec. 2, 2012. The coldest was -17 F in Aberdeen on Dec. 10, 2012.
Soil temperatures were in the 20s. Oacoma was the warmest at 28 F; Cottonwood was the coolest at 21 F.
Some producers have been concerned about the lack of snow cover protection for the winter wheat. Winter wheat condition was rated at 21 percent very poor, 49 percent poor, 27 percent fair, and 3 percent good. Snow cover for winter wheat was rated at 61 percent poor with the remaining 39 percent adequate. Alfalfa snow cover was rated at 37 percent poor, 61 percent adequate and 2 percent excellent.
Feed supplies were rated at 23 percent very short, 32 percent short and 45 percent adequate to surplus, while last year at this time feed supplies were rated at 99 percent adequate to surplus. Stock water supplies were rated at 31 percent very short, 36 percent short, 33 percent adequate. Cattle conditions were rated at 73 percent good to excellent, 25 percent fair and 2 percent poor, with fall newborn calf deaths rated 12 percent below average and 88 percent average. Sheep conditions were rated at 81 percent good to excellent condition, 17 percent fair and 2 percent poor, with sheep and lamb deaths rated 3 percent below average and 97 percent average.