For farmers in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan, there is a ton of issues popping up as we get closer and closer to the end of winter and towards springtime. Enough snow and winter runoff for seeding, young calves being born and handling nasty winds in their first weeks of life, a full stop of canola imports from China, these are just some of the problems farmers are dealing with before the season starts on top of their usual worries.
Mark Neuman is a farmer in the Frobisher area, and we talked with him on a few of those topics, starting off with the snow.
"We're probably sitting at 18-20 inches of snow, that would be my best guess. So we're maybe average or a little bit below average for snow going into the end of this winter, and so it'd be nice to have a little bit more."
The low amount of snow is thanks in large part to colder than normal temperatures and the heavy winds that plagued most of Saskatchewan throughout the month of February. The wind blows snow around, creating lighter snow that hardens and melts on the top layer rather than the bottom, meaning when the snow melts, most evaporates before it can saturate the ground.
"The winds that we've had in the winter certainly displaced a lot of snow into the low areas, so I'd expect we're gonna have average to below average run-off. I would expect that some dugouts are going to be full and others might not be able to get filled this spring but overall I think the soil profile was not able to be saturated before the winter and it would certainly be beneficial to have some light snow cover with the moisture we have going into seeding."
Speaking of how the wind is affecting the snow, it's also affecting the new cattle that has just entered the world. For many farmers, including Neuman, the first round of cattle season is all over, and while cattle are born to deal with the cold, they aren't able to deal with the wind as easily. Neuman borrows some barn space for his cattle.
"Once those calves are dried off, they have their clothes and their mother, they seem to be extremely resilient and they can handle the cold weather as long as you have enough straw and bedding around that they can lay down and have access to out of the wind. Wind is absolutely brutal, it doesn't matter if it's man or beast. Getting out of the wind at minus 20 is more important than minus 35."
For the most part, however, Neuman and a lot of other producers bred their cows to give birth in the warmer months in spring and even as early as the end of March.
"I had some earlier calves but most of my calving is on grass. That should start in April. The majority of commercial producers calve on grass, however there are some purebred producers and a few commercial producers, I mean if they have the infrastructure, they have the equipment that can handle calving in the cold weather, it's less problematic."
As well, the other issue that's out of the normal for farmers this year goes back to the grain side of the equation. Chinese relations with Canada have taken a turn for the worse thanks to a number of different issues, including Canadians being detained and one being given the death sentence in China, because Canada is holding the chief financial officer with Chinese tech giant Huawei.
As a part of their retaliation, China is now further inspecting Canadian canola imports, and because of certain things found in those seeds, have halted the import of Canadian canola completely. Canada is one of the largest exporters of canola, and China one of the biggest buyers.
Neuman says that it hasn't affected him coming in to this year, but understands how it will affect many in Saskatchewan.
"Canola won't be in our rotation this year, however I know for a lot of producers canola is probably one of the most profitable rotations they have, and certainly this whole political situation with China is going to be problematic, it's going to cause hundreds of millions of dollars of profit potential, it will certainly impact Western Canada a lot more than the rest of Canada.