I’ve met a lot of people this winter and past fall who’ve told me how relieved they are about the mild winter we’re experiencing.

It seems like the entire month of December and January, we had daytime highs consistently reaching 40 or more degrees in Ohio.

I guess part of me is relieved, as well. My heating bills show a daytime average of 9-19 degrees warmer than last year and that means a considerable amount of savings. And, it is kind of nice being able to go outside in a light jacket instead of something much heavier, and not having to wear a hat and gloves.

A little of both

But for farmers, this unusually mild season has been a blessing and a curse — probably more of a curse. Many of them pay to heat parts of their barn or their milk house, and I’m sure they’ve seen some savings there.

But, there are many hidden problems with a warm winter. One of the biggest is the challenge of spreading manure on ground that is too soft and muddy to support the equipment. This has led to an over-piling of manure on many livestock farms and some brave and sometimes disastrous attempts at spreading manure in less than ideal conditions.

The mild weather also affects the animals’ health. I’m not a scientist, but I know from experience that rapid increases and decreases in temperature, compounded with wet weather, can lead to more sickness and health issues with most livestock.

The ideal condition, in my opinion, is a cool winter season in which the temperature remains steady. And that’s certainly not been the case this season.

Deep freeze

We’ve also not had the type of extended deep freeze common in most years, and that presents some concern over what types of insects and other pests that may end up surviving. Even in a cold year, it seems that many of these pests survive and I’m guessing a higher population will survive in a year like this.

Frozen ground can also have positive benefits for the soil condition and health. And, there are some farmers who chisel plow when the ground is slightly frozen — something else that’s barely happened this winter.

I guess the old adage that you can’t control the weather is true, but it sure does seem like a mild winter has more consequences than most would know.

How has the mild weather affected your farm? Has it been a mostly good or dreadful experience?

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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