Unseasonably cold temperatures are setting back the growth of area grain and market animals.
Grain farmer Frank McConnell and his brothers work during the winter season on getting their equipment ready for the summer at their Wellington Township homestead.
“We don’t do anything in the fields until mid-April, but it’s not warming up very fast,” he said.
The grain farmers look to plant as soon as the weather is fit and usually want to start planting before May 10.
McConnell and his brothers have to wait for the ground to be 50 degrees before the seeds start sprouting.
“If it stays wet and could further into May then you feel the pressure of trying to get things planted,” he said.
The brothers have seen extremely harsh conditions before with three weeks of constant rain in June that flooded their crops, followed by a July so hot it dried everything out.
Most farmers have crop insurance that covers at least a percentage of the production, McConnell said.
He said the insurance is mostly for grain, wheat, and soybean farmers to protect them from dud years that could put them out of business permanently.
Nathan Joppeck of Fair View Meadow Farm has faced some very hard times during this brutal winter because his animals are grass fed.
“One thing that was hard for us this year is water for the animals, especially the cows,” he said.
There is no water system in his cow barn, which forces him to haul water to the back of the property.
Joppeck does have a system set up that catches water from the gutters and melting snow, which then goes into the water tank for his cows.
“Most winters we have enough rain or melting snow that you don’t have to water them as frequently, but this year it’s been every single day because we haven’t had the rain or melting snow,” he said.
The Fair View Meadow Farm has 16 cows, eight pigs, six sheep, 125 laying chickens, and are looking to add about 150 more laying chickens, nine more cows, about 30 turkeys, eight more pigs, and a couple lambs.
The farm is on a 65 acre lot with 35 acres used just for the animals to graze on.
Joppeck always saves up a portion of his 35-acre pasture for the cows to eat during the winter, but the snow came so early that he couldn’t finish preparing that section of the pasture this year.
“We couldn’t really get the animals out on the pasture because it was so cold and the snow covered it so deeply for so long,” he said.
Joppeck said the cows and sheep are pretty much strictly grass fed but get hay during the winter.
He chooses to raise his farm based on grass feeding for health and ecological reasons.
“The last couple years have been very good for us, we are growing and picking up new customers all the time,” Joppeck said.
A big challenge he faces is that it takes him longer to prepare an animal for market than the average farmer because he grass feds his animals.
He said to finish out a steer on mostly grain products takes 14-15 months, where it takes him 18-24 months.
Even though Joppeck’s finishing-out process takes longer than the average farmer’s, it does not bother him.
One reason he loves what he is doing so much is because he is preparing his animals to feed families in the Cleveland area.
He said he enjoys building a relationship with the buyer because they are both able to get to know each other.
Joppeck even allows the buyer to come out and see the farm if they want too.
“My mission is to educate more people about this and we have a field trip coming from Brookside school district in May,” he said.
A teacher is taking her class to see the farm to learn a little more about farming.
Joppeck is excited because he will get a chance to show students around and a lot of them come from an area where they have never seen a farm.
There’s always a chance that Mother Nature could suddenly decide to be nice to farmers.
“It’s a total swamp right now, then someone flips a switch and it’s dry,” McConnell said.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ONT_valurbanik.