GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Winter weather is right around the corner, and it is important for agriculture producers to know what to expect with the 2023-2024 winter season.
The Farmers’ Almanac mentions the warm winter the United States had in the previous year and this year will bring cold temperatures along with a snowy forecast. The cold temperatures will come from a predicted El Niño. National Geographic defines an El Niño as a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. It is part of the “warm stage” of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
These waters will develop during the later months of 2023 and in the early months of 2024 which could bring icy conditions to the U.S. Just before Christmas, winter will begin on Dec. 21. However, the meteorological winter begins Dec. 1.
The Farmers’ Alamac forecasts “some blizzard conditions blowing snow into areas over northern New England, the North Central States, and northern and central areas of New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.” The Alamac uses a mathematical and astronomical method to predict extended weather forecasts. Based on the formula, the Alamac gives this prediction for some parts of the U.S.
In the prediction, it says to expect “below-average temperatures and lots of snowstorms, sleet, ice, rain for much of the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, and Midwest areas of the country, as well as central and northern New England, especially in January and February.”
Also, the Farmers’ Almanac gives this forecast for the upcoming winter season:
- The second week of January will be stormy, snowy, and wet for both the Pacific Coast and the Eastern States.
- Lots of cold temperatures and some storms will keep folks in the South-Central States busy during the middle of January.
- Heavy mountain snows will cover the western US including the mountains on the Pacific Coast during the first week of February.
- An East Coast storm affecting the Northeast and New England states will bring snowfall, cold rain and then frigid temperatures, during the second week of February.
- Unseasonably cold temperatures will blow into the Southeast States mid-February.
- Potential blizzards for this first week of March will remind folks in the North Central States that winter isn’t over yet.
- Another East Coast storm will bring a wintry mess to this area during the first week of March.
- A possible late-season snowfall over the high terrain of New England during the third week of April.
Winter preparations for farmers
Ag America Lending suggests that producers use the winter season to look over their finances. Producers should prepare for tax season by gathering up the needed documents for their taxes.
They can also look over their cash flow budget to confirm that all the expenditures line up with the annual budget. For family farms, it is important to look at all the family living expenses and operational expenses.
Ag America Lending recommends that farmers and producers look at the market trends such as:
- How much are input costs expected to increase next year?
- What will commodity prices look like next year?
- What legislation is on the table that could impact my operation?
- How much will farm labor cost next year?
The blog advises that any maintenance that was not done on equipment during harvest season should be done in the wintertime along with any facilities or barns. It is important that all livestock have a dry and warm place to live during winter months. Calves must maintain their body temperature so they can grow and develop healthy. Kim Clark, dairy Extension educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, gives some tips to keep livestock protected during the cold months:
- Ensure calf hutches are facing away from the wind.
- House animals inside a barn for shelter if possible.
- Provide warm and dry bedding for animals.
- Make sure you have enough feed supply.
The blog hints at growing winter crops. It says that winter crops consist of “broad beans, asparagus, peas and pea shoots, garlic, spinach, onions and winter lettuce” depending on what part of the country a farmer is from. Some others include broccoli, radishes, brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, cauliflower, and kale. If some of the crops are planted, they can assist in avoiding soil erosion.
According to Ag America Lending, other benefits of planting winter crops include:
- Supplying nitrogen
- Reducing weeds
- Providing nectar and pollen for beneficial insects
- Managing soil-borne diseases