CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Better maple syrup and fewer bugs could be some of the agricultural results West Virginians see later this year after an ongoing round of frigid weather to start 2018.
“Last year, we had a very bad winter for maple syrup production across most of the state and we need cold weather to help set that process in motion,” said Joe Hatton, deputy commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
As for the bugs, “I think most folks will be happy if there’s less stink bugs around,” Hatton told MetroNews of the potential future benefits of the cold that’s currently locked in over the Mountain State.
Bug population controls extend beyond stink bugs, he said.
On the heels of a cold start to the week, the National Weather Service was calling for wind chills below zero again across West Virginia by Thursday morning and the bitter cold was forecasted to continue into the weekend at least.
As of Wednesday morning Wind Chill Advisories were posted from late Wednesday night through the day Thursday for southeast Webster, northwest Pocahontas, southeast Randolph, Mercer, Summers, Monroe, Greenbrier, western Grant, western Mineral and Pendleton counties.
Low temperature records have fallen across West Virginia in recent days.
Coming off a dry fall leaving springs weak in parts of the Mountain State, Hatton said consistent water access for livestock was the “most critical” concern for farmers in the ongoing below freezing temperatures.
“They can move the animals to another location on the farm that maybe has a better water supply. A lot of farmers are out breaking ice most every day to go and keep the water open for the livestock to drink,” he said.
“If they have them close to electric and they have some sort of a watering trough, there are devices that you can put in the watering trough to keep them from freezing. That’s expensive, it’s difficult, it’s another area of activity that the farmer has to go and do in the cold weather.”
Some farmers have started feeding their livestock at night because heat from digesting food peaks a few hours after consumption, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture reported earlier this week.
More money has been spent on feed for livestock in the cold, Hatton said, while produce growers are dealing with additional costs for fuel like propane to keep high tunnels and greenhouses heated.
Sufficient heat is also a concern for poultry farmers.
Overall, though, “Most farmers probably can deal with this,” he said. “It’s cold out, but we’ve had colder temperatures in past winters.”