Cool, wet weather has some hayfields in the Chilcotin underwater. (Photo submitted)

Cordy Cox-Ellis: ‘It is the wettest I’ve seen the cattle range in 27 years.”

Cool, wet spring delays hay crops

Saturated fields could be a problem for ranchers in the Cariboo-Chilcotin as far as hay production goes.

“Moisture levels are high,” said Cariboo Cattlemens Association president Cordy Clint Ellis of Dane Ranch at Kleena Kleene, west of Williams Lake.

“We’ve been getting a lot of rain and had a cold wet spring.”

There was some sunshine last week, but it rained all Tuesday and into the night.

“It is the wettest I’ve seen the cattle range in 27 years. Fields are very, very wet also still wet from last fall.”

She said if hot weather does arrive then they could have record levels of hay, but they need lots of heat.

“If we don’t get a ton of heat we will have problems in the Anahim Lake area with getting it off the fields as the ground could be too wet.”

Ingemar Kallman, at Rose Lake, east of Williams Lake, said water levels have come down, but there is still plenty of water running through their ranch, which experienced historical flooding this spring.

Read more: Rose Lake ranchers don hip waders to work in flooded fields

“The large field out front has about a foot of water on the surface and we and other neighbours with meadow hay are thinking we may not get our meadow areas this year unless the rain stops.”

Even the uplands fields are soggy, he added.

“A friend commented that if the sun came out we could have harvest. I had to say ‘no,’ first we need sun rays and heat to get some growth as fields are at one third of volume due to lack of sun.”

What growth they do have is getting pushed in the mud, Kallman said.

As of June 27 a total of 66.3 mm of rain has fallen in the Williams Lake area this month.

Compare that to 57.3 mm in total for all of June 2019 and 61.8 mm for all of June 2018 which were wet months, while only nine mm rain fell in June 2017, which was a dry season that resulted in that year’s wildfires.

Days with chances of showers are in the forecast for Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and next Tuesday are in the forecast for the remaining days of June, so we could surpass the totals of recent years.

In what is a bit of a contrast, north of Williams Lake Soda Creek rancher and corn grower Steven Kaufman said he has been irrigating furiously some of his fields for the third time this year.

“We have been getting rain too, but six mm to 15 mm at a time. I lay down 50 mm to 70 mm at a time. We have sandy loam soil, which is a mixed curse,” Kaufman said. “Grows great plants as it is super friable and drains so well that the plants always have oxygen on their roots. It does not hold water well, though, some crops needing a full watering every 10 days when it is hot.”

He said he was actually irrigating when the freshet was roaring two kilometres away.

“That same two km away the climate goes from no corn will ripen to four weeks of harvest.”

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