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Can Rain Make Or Break Your Calving/Seeding Season?

Much needed rain coming in. Photo Dawn Riley

As many rural Eastern Alberta residents know, the weather can be a strong influence on the successes of the agriculture seasons. Right now, at the end of the spring calving season and onset of seeding, the dry conditions the area is experiencing can be both positive and negative.

From a cattle perspective, dryer conditions during spring calving provides the opportunity for pasture births. Calves that are not confined to a barn and born outside in the open tend to have better immunity to illness, especially scours, resulting in fewer cases of sickness. Fields not inundated by moisture provide the best natural situation for calving. Many farmers will time their spring births to coincide with typically known dryer weeks in April/May to achieve greater calving success, with the majority of their calves arriving before seeding starts. Economically, this benefits a farmer in cost reduction for health issues, as well as feed. Spring calves and their mothers have quick access to fresh grassland growth at a time needed for lactating cows.

From the other perspective, a little rain would be much appreciated once seeding starts. According to the Canola Council of Canada, seeding in dry conditions has some challenges. Dry soil tends to lead farmers to want to plant deeper in search of natural moisture, which can result in slower growth as well as weed dominance, the weeds having a tendency to grow faster than crops. Any gardener who accidentally planted their veggies too deep can attest to this! When moisture does arrive, rain or wind can level out seed furrows, resulting in a deeper seeding depth than intended, again resulting in slow growth. Deeper planting can also lead to higher seed mortality, as well as an increase in disease risk.

Typical ideal rain conditions during seeding season lets farmers plant at the most beneficial depths for their crops, contributing to maximum germination potential and a successful start to the growing season.

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