Farm Forum

Summary: The month of December was mostly normal for temperatures with an average snow depth at the end of the month of 4.0 inches across the state. As the winter season progresses, producers continue to cope with drought reduced feed supplies and stock water supplies. Livestock were doing well in most areas of the state. County road conditions in the state were rated at 98 percent open and 2 percent difficult. Township road conditions were rated at 93 percent open, 6 percent difficult and 1 percent closed. Major activities last month included moving snow, caring for livestock, moving hay to winter storage, hauling grain and repairing equipment.

This report was based on information from regional extension educators, Farm Service Agency county directors, and other reporters across the state.

Weather: December presented some early winter snowfall and hazards across much of the state, according to the State Climate Office of South Dakota. An early December blizzard (Dec. 7-9) and several subsequent smaller snows have created snow cover statewide. More limited snow cover was across much of south central South Dakota where 2 inches or less exist. The heavier amounts are in east central South Dakota where 8-10 inches and more are on the ground due to several snow events.

The precipitation is welcomed, though not a major improvement for drought conditions. The overall water amount in the snow is small compared to the longer term deficits. Most of the precipitation in December fell as snow and will have only limited impact on dry soils. The far southeast did receive rain on the 15-16th helping soil moisture as the rain fell on unfrozen ground.

The peak precipitation for the month was at Clear Lake where a total of 1.51 inches of precipitation fell (melted snow and rain). The least precipitation was at Oelrichs in far southwest South Dakota with 0.16 inches. Nearly 2/3 of the state is still in extreme or exceptional drought on the US Drought Monitor map.

Despite the snow cover over most of the state, temperatures were close to average over much of the state and several degrees above average across the south (where snow cover was less).

Average temperatures ranged from the upper teens in the north to upper 20’s south and west. The high temperature for the month was 72 F in Chamberlain on the 2nd. The coldest was -17 F in Aberdeen on the 10th.

Soil condition: Soil temperatures were in the 20’s. Oacoma was the warmest at 28 F; Cottonwood was the coolest at 21 F.

Field crops report: Some producers have been concerned about the lack of snow cover protection for the winter wheat. Winter wheat condition was rated at 21 percent very poor, 49 percent poor, 27 percent fair, and 3 percent good. Snow cover for winter wheat was rated at 61 percent poor with the remaining 39 percent adequate. Alfalfa snow cover was rated at 37 percent poor, 61 percent adequate and 2 percent excellent.

Livestock, pasture, and range report: Feed supplies were rated at 23 percent very short, 32 percent short and 45 percent adequate to surplus, while last year at this time feed supplies were rated at 99 percent adequate to surplus. Stock water supplies were rated at 31 percent very short, 36 percent short, 33 percent adequate. Cattle conditions were rated at 73 percent good to excellent, 25 percent fair and 2 percent poor, with fall newborn calf deaths rated 12 percent below average and 88 percent average. Sheep conditions were rated at 81 percent good to excellent condition, 17 percent fair and 2 percent poor, with sheep and lamb deaths rated 3 percent below average and 97 percent average.

North Dakota

General: Snowfall amounts varied across the state in December with no major impacts on winter operations reported, according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, North Dakota Field Office. Areas with limited snowfall benefitted livestock producers, although some areas had only recently received adequate snow protection for alfalfa and winter wheat. County and secondary roads on December 30 were rated as 96 percent open and 4 difficult. Road conditions were 10 percent drifted, 12 icy and 78 dry. Agricultural activities during December included moving hay and livestock to winter yards, and marketing grain.

Statewide, average snow depth was 4.7 inches on December 30, compared with 0.2 inches on January 1, 2012

Crops: As of December 30, snow cover protection for alfalfa was rated 21 percent poor, 57 adequate and 22 excellent. Snow cover protection for winter wheat was rated 15 percent poor, 57 adequate and 28 excellent.

Livestock: Cattle conditions were rated 2 percent poor, 13 fair, 68 good and 17 excellent. Sheep conditions were rated 3 percent poor, 17 fair, 65 good and 15 excellent. Hay and forage supplies were rated 11 percent short, 76 adequate and 13 surplus.

Weather: Overall, temperatures for December were below normal in the north and near normal across much of the rest of the state. Precipitation was near to above normal across much of the northwest, and parts of the central and south central with below normal precipitation elsewhere. There were no major widespread snowfall events across the state, but frequent light snow events from the second week of December through the end of the month. More widespread light snow events occurred on December 8-9, 12, and 23. On December 8-9, snowfall amounts ranged from 1 to 5 inches across much of the state with the higher amounts in the central and north central. Snowfall amounts ranged from 1 to 5 inches on December 12 mainly across the southwest, central, and north. Snowfall amounts ranged from 1 to 3 inches across much of the state on December 23 with the highest amounts in the northwest and central.

Outlook, January: January will start out with below normal temperatures with near to below normal precipitation. Near to above normal temperatures will be likely across much of the state for the second week of the month with above normal precipitation. Temperatures for the second half of the month should be below normal with near to above normal precipitation. Overall for the month of January, the state will see below normal temperatures and near normal precipitation.


LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The Agriculture Department says Nebraska’s winter wheat crop remained in bad condition despite some rain and snow that brought much-needed moisture to the state.

The USDA says in its December report that 15 percent of the crop was rated very poor and 34 percent poor. That total of 49 percent is 3 points above the 46 percent in a report issued at the end of November.

The USDA says unseasonably warm and dry weather in the first half of December was followed by rain and snow. The snow provided cover for fields of winter wheat.