Storm aftermath, flooding causes headaches

The hits keep coming as producers deal with standing water and pastures disappearing under melt water

Silage operations near Miami begin again despite the tough conditions after Manitoba’s early brush with winter in mid-October.

The snow may be gone, but farmers are sill fighting the aftermath.

A three-day storm over the Thanksgiving weekend dropped over two feet of snow in some parts of the province.

Why it matters: The historic snowstorm over Thanksgiving long weekend isn’t done with farmers yet.

Andre Steppler of Miami spent the week after the storm rounding up cattle after his electric fences went down.

“We had cows running down the highway where we couldn’t get to because they’re 30 miles away and visibility was just bad and then we also had cows trapped down in the ravines that we couldn’t get to and then once those cows got out of the ravine, they were so hungry that they just dispersed,” he said. “Everybody knows how the Hydro wires went down, well, our electric fences were exactly the same. We had no Hydro, plus the wire was on the ground and the cow comes up and there’s no feed, because there’s all this snow around and they just literally scattered. It was a long process just to find every one.”

The Steppler family near Miami march some of their lost cattle home after an October snowstorm left them scattered over the landscape. photo: Ian Steppler

Steppler found many of his cattle making their way home over the next days.

His problems have since switched from lost cows to cattle stranded on high spots of his pasture, he said. His farm is accustomed to that problem in the spring, but not in fall, he said. Cattle were therefore in areas where Steppler would not normally have them during peak water periods.

Ditches clogged with snow have backed up water across pastures and fields in his area, something also endangered his brother, Ian’s, beehives.

Ian Steppler was forced to make an emergency trip to rescue his hives during the weekend of Oct. 19-20.

The Stepplers have since given up the 10 remaining days of grazing capacity, given the work it would require to fix fence.

“There’s no doubt that anyone who was short of feed supply, it’s going to hurt,” Andre Steppler said. “Two weeks is a long time come next spring…we’re also bedding cattle that are in the yard that we normally would not have to, but we have to use a significant amount of straw just trying to keep cattle clean.”

Ian Steppler of Miami works to save his beehives as melt water from Manitoba’s Thanksgiving storm creeps up. photo: Ian Steppler

That straw also inflates their yardage cost, given the relative scarcity of it in the province right now, he added.

Looking at crops

Grain producers are also anxiously waiting to get back on the field.

Farmers put out requests for track rentals or added another set of wheels to combines during the fourth week of October.

“Snow banks, sunrises and stuck combines,” one farmer, Jeremy Cory of Wawanesa, tweeted Oct. 24, alongside an image of a combine up to the axles in mud.

Jeremy Cory of Wawanesa got left digging himself out after trying to get back on the field Oct. 24. photo: Jeremy Cory

To the east, Roger Wohlgemuth of Landmark says things have been similarly challenging.

“We’ve got beans out there that are kind of standing in water,” he said.

Farmers have gotten some crop off, he noted, although the low cut for beans has added another layer of difficulty.

Farmers are now hoping for a freeze to help them get back on the field, according to Wohlgemuth.

“I’m not expecting it to dry. It’s a bit late in the season for that already,” he said.

Silage has also been a concern, according to Andre Steppler.

Silage equipment is rolling again, he said, although conditions are difficult.

“We are dry enough in our corn crop that it needs to come in,” he said. “We have to do it to make sure that our silage crop is where we need it for moisture and packing and stuff like that.”

The province opened the Red River Floodway in the fall for the first time Oct. 9. High water advisories had already been issued in eastern Manitoba as of the start of October thanks to above average rain the month before.

The three-day storm Oct. 10-12 added up to 74 centimetres of snow to that equation. Eastern areas such as Roseau River and Vita saw some overland flooding thanks to the influx of snow and rain, the province reported Oct. 16, and ditches around St. Adolphe were filled with water to ease flood concern.

Rain in North Dakota during the third week of October did little to help. On Oct. 22, the province warned that overland flooding was possible in some agricultural low areas thanks to increased water levels between Emerson and Morris. The floodway gates had also been partially lowered, raising water levels around St. Adolphe.

The Red River was expected to peak between Oct. 24-27 between Emerson and Morris, although the province did not expect rain out of North Dakota to impact water levels north of Morris.

The Souris and Assiniboine Rivers were higher than average, but not expected to flood, the province said.

Jeremy Cory of Wawanesa got left digging himself out after trying to get back on the field Oct. 24. photo: Jeremy Cory

About the author


Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.



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