Alberta farmers hopeful this year spells end of drought conditions

·2 min read
An Alberta farmer drives a seeding rig, with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, as the family plant their wheat crop near Cremona, Alta., in May. Farmers are hoping the planting work earlier in the season will pay off with less rain but also not too much heat in the coming weeks and months. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
An Alberta farmer drives a seeding rig, with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, as the family plant their wheat crop near Cremona, Alta., in May. Farmers are hoping the planting work earlier in the season will pay off with less rain but also not too much heat in the coming weeks and months. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

Farmers and ranchers around southern Alberta are making hay while the sun shines — all while hoping it doesn't shine too hard, or too long.

Much of southern Alberta has been under a heat warning for the last week.

"For the last year or two, we've been experiencing big drought conditions so we've been praying for rain every day," said Nanton rancher Rachel Herbert.

Now that the rain has come and gone, she hopes the warmth lasts a little longer.

"Right now we've got just enough grass to put up some hay," she said. "So now our focus is on praying for some clear skies and sunny days so we can get our hay product in good condition. And then after that, we're ready for the skies to open up again and it could rain for six months."

John Kolk, who farms just north of Lethbridge, said this year's outlook is much better than last, but continued temperatures in the high 30s would be bad news.

"You know between that 25 and 30 C during the day, and if he gave me an inch of rain every week for the early August that'd make me real happy, but of course we don't get to pick and choose that," said Kolk.

Both Herbert and Kolk say another drought season could force them to sell cattle and downsize their operations, but so far this year things haven't been as severe as the last two growing seasons.

Herbert said although recent rain did not increase water tables to pre-drought levels, it did lift the spirits of many ranchers and farmers in the area.

"We're just really hoping that a drought cycle has been broken and that we're gonna see some more seasonal temperatures and rain to really keep the pastures rejuvenated all through the grazing season here," she said.

Alberta farmers will get a nice reprieve from the heat in the coming few days with between 10 and 30 mm of rain expected to fall in the southern half of the province Sunday and into Monday, according to Environment Canada's website.

Then it's a return to the summer heat and continued growing.

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