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Recent rains a help to local farmers and growers

Dwayne Burdek, who runs a mixed farming operation in the Normandeau district of Lac La Biche County, says while this rain will help crops to germinate, more is needed in order for them to grow.

LAKELAND - When Lakeland This Week spoke to Lac La Biche area farmer Dwayne Burdek in January, he was predicting a tough year due to a winter with some of the least snowfall on record, and a forecast for the spring that didn’t show much rain.  

A few months later, and after two days of rain that fell right around seeding time, Burdek is a little more optimistic... but cautiously optimistic.  

“The soil moisture in the first six, eight inches now is enough to germinate a crop for sure,” he told Lakeland This Week on May 5, following a two-day steady rainfall across the Lakeland region. 

Burdek, who runs a mixed farming operation in the Normandeau district of Lac La Biche County where he has 400 cow/calf pairs and grows canola and barley crops, said that this precipitation has been a great help to him and other producers. Before the rain, local producers were facing some tough times. 

Now that planting and seeding season has arrived-along with this welcome precipitation, Burdek will be working on getting the seed in the ground - and waiting for more rain.  

Watching the skies and the ground as he does a a life-long farmer, Burdek said an inch of rain lasts about a week to 10 days in his soil. He's hoping for more rain in the coming days. 

“We’re going to need timely rains through the summer to carry us on,” he said.  

The recent rain also helped the cattle side of Burdek’s operation. This precipitation, he said, will help the grass to green up and there will be something to go to pasture with when that part of the season begins in June.  

“Things are much, much more optimistic today than they were two weeks ago,” said Burdek, looking back on the winter and the projections he had a few weeks ago for the coming farm seasons 

Other “farm factors” have been helping so far this year, said Burdek, explaining that in addition to having a good calving season, commodity and beef prices are high.  

“The cattle side’s good… we have enough feed to get to grass,” he said. 

Even though the good news is outweighing the bad, the see-saw, roller-coaster life of a farm family continues, he said, looking at the low water in one of his farm’s dugouts. 

Because there was no runoff from snow, many of the dugouts Burdek uses for summer watering are at less than half full. Some of the dugouts, he continued, will go dry over the summer, while some of the better ones will be fine. Managing this, he explained, may mean letting cows come to different pastures and moving them around to where there’s water.  

“The dugouts really need a recharge every spring from snowmelt,” he said, adding because that snow didn’t come this year, farmers are worried about summer water for cattle.  

What happens if there isn’t enough rain over the next few months?  

As Burdek explains, the crops will germinate, they’ll come up, and perhaps make it to the four or five leaf stage. Once a plant reaches the four to five leaf stage, its root system becomes more established in the ground.  

But it still needs water. 

Looking to the sky, and back to the ground, which was still a little soft from the recent rain, Burdek said the roller-coaster ride continues.  

“If they don’t get rain, then they’ll just start to go dormant, and they’ll just whither,” he said.  

Chris McGarry

About the Author: Chris McGarry

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