Winter weather provides challenges for Arkansas agriculture
Extreme weather provides little help, many challenges
By Garrett Hatcher | Delta Digital News Service
As cold winter temperatures and storms continue to hinder Arkansans, some cannot help but wonder how Arkansas’ agricultural workers and organizations have been braving the extreme climates.
While some people face problems like power outages, icy roads and a lack of winterization, livestock ranchers appear to be having the most immediate problems as they try to keep their livestock warm and feed while keeping up with the industry demands.
“As a livestock producer, this is hard on the animals that are out there in this weather. The rate of gain on the cattle is going to be definitely less. They’re gonna have to have a lot more feed just to generate body heat just to maintain themselves, much less gain any weight,” said David Hodges, a northeast Arkansas beef cattle farmer.
“….They’re gonna have to have a lot more feed just to generate body heat just to maintain themselves, much less gain any weight.”– Beef Cattle Farmer David Hodges
Hodges said that despite the problems winter brings for farmers and ranchers, it does have one upside – the extermination of insects that would normally affect crops. Due to the very cold temperatures and storms, they keep off and away from farmer’s crops. This leads to cold temperatures being especially helpful to row crop farmers who have little trouble during the winter months.
Hodges also mentioned how many farmers have taken up growing less nitrogen-dependent crops during the winter and overall during the seasons as prices for nitrogen and other farming chemicals rise. He said winter could cause financial issues to a farmer if a high maintenance and expensive upkeep crop were to die due to ice or snow.
Branon Thiesse, a county extension agent – staff chair at Craighead County Cooperative Extension Service said ice could cause farmers issues.
Craighead County Cooperative Extension Service is an organization that provides research-based information through non-formal education to help Arkansans with their economics and well-being in consumer science, community development and agriculture.
“As far as an ice storm is concerned, loss of electricity, damage to buildings and farm shops and things like that can cause problems, broken pipes in the farm shops and different things like that because they don’t have an alternative heating method, as most of them use gas,” Thiesse said. He said that while some farmers may have kerosene heaters to heat their shops, many farmers have electric fans that when stopped could stop heat from circulating in their shops. This can damage equipment that hasn’t yet been winterized or protected and halts any future progress toward preparing for the next proper farming season.
“We don’t get dry soil that we can get out and farm. This is pretty much a dead time of the year; field work will typically begin in March unless we just happen to have an unusual dry period during the winter,” Bill Shannon of Farmers National Co. said. “Anytime they’re not able work in their fields, they work in their shops winterizing equipment, making repairs for the upcoming season and just getting ready to start another crop.”
“Anytime they’re not able work in their fields, they work in their shops winterizing equipment, making repairs for the upcoming season and just getting ready to start another crop.”– Bill Shannon of Farmers National Co.
Farmers National Co. is an organization that manages land for absentee landowners, bank trust departments and charitable foundations, while also leasing farmland to operators so it can be farmed.
As winter drags on, many workers and organizations are planning out and maintaining their equipment as they prepare for the next season of growing rather than worrying about the cold and the troubles it tends to bring.
NOTE: Feature photo: A herd of cattle at the Eric Eaves Cattle Farm stand in an ice covered field Friday. During extreme weather cattle need to be feed more to gain weight for protection against cold temperatures. Submitted Photo