Tag Archives: winter storms

Blizzard Warning…

I was first introduced to a “blizzard warning” during the winter of 1996 when my favorite farmer and I traveled back to Nebraska for a visit. I remember standing by the window at Matt’s parents’ house fascinated with how the snow flakes whipped across the prairie in a frantic horizontal pattern.  As a three year resident of New Hampshire, I expected to see the nice gentle New England vertically falling snow that covered the country like a gentle white blanket.

When I became a Nebraskan a year later, I quickly learned that is not the kind of snow that typically visits Nebraska…

Before the storm...

Before the storm…

Almost twenty years later, I hear the term “blizzard warning” and my stomach automatically clenches.

Mother Nature brings along a blizzard every couple of years with varying intensities and snow fall amounts.  However, there is always one constant: a howling wind. It amazes me how much havoc can be wrought with a little bit of snow and a 30-70 mph wind. White out conditions desecrate visibility and create snow drifts as tall as my house, while brutally cold temperatures make it virtually impossible to stay warm while outside doing chores.

Ten years ago, on Thanksgiving weekend, we received 6-8” of snow with 70-80 mph winds. The storm lasted over 36 hours and it took us weeks to repair the damage. To put it in perspective (or at least in Florida lingo), a category 5 hurricane carries winds in excess of 70 mph. These blizzard storms result in power-line and tree damage similar to a hurricane, but then you exchange rain for snow and add on bitterly cold temperatures.

Tonight, winter storm Kayla will lash out at Central Nebraska and Northern Kansas. The snow began to fall earlier in the day while we were working cattle about 11:00am this morning, but the bulk of the accumulation will occur over night. It is likely that we will receive up to a foot of snow. While 12” of snow provides some work with both a scoop shovel and a tractor, it is not the snow itself that will disrupt life on the farm.

beattiecalfsnow.jpg

The wind will be the debilitating factor.

At this point, we are expected to receive 35-45 mph winds beginning tonight and continuing for about 24 hours. Today, we did our best to prepare for the storm, in addition to performing our normal feed yard chores. Three years ago, prior to Winter Storm Q, I blogged about how we prepare for a storm. You can read that by clicking here.

So tonight, I sit by the window and worry. As I watch the snow come down, I pray that the wind will leave.

  • I think about all of the animals that live outdoors.
  • I think about all of the people who will travel out into the storm to care for them.

The worry will abate shortly before dawn when the work begins. The powerless feeling that comes during the dark hours of the night is replaced by the determination to act during the early morning hours.

We will offer care – doing the best that we can – dealing with whatever Mother Nature gives us. When you sign on to be a farmer, you make a commitment to always care.

They will have on many more layers of clothes but hopefully they will keep their smiles :)

They will have on many more layers of clothes tomorrow morning but hopefully they will keep these same smiles 🙂

My daughters are celebrating the fact that school is canceled tomorrow but, by the time that the day is done, they will likely be dreaming of that nice warm classroom housed inside a building that blessedly blocks out the blizzard…

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General

When You Are a Bovine, Brown Is Better Than White…

Every year I hope for a nice pretty brown Christmas.  It isn’t that I don’t think that snow is beautiful, rather it is that snow storms are hard on my cattle and make my chores more difficult.

Lots of curious ice covered faces greet me...

Lots of curious ice covered faces greet me…

I have found over the past 17 years that snow rarely falls in a vertical pattern across the plains of Nebraska.  Instead, it whips viciously and horizontally across the horizon.

It settles in the roadside ditches camouflaging where the road ends and the ditch begins...

It settles in the roadside ditches camouflaging where the road ends and the ditch begins…

The snow makes drifts as is blows across the prairie.  There are times that these drifts are taller than I am.  Fortunately, this go round we have only small drifts…

Here you can see the snow drifting and blowing over the feed bunk...

Here you can see the snow drifting and blowing over the feed bunk…

We place our cattle on a special feed ration (casserole) to help them stay warm during inclement winter weather.  We also have windbreaks in the home pens so that they can huddle up and seek protection from the wind.

Up at the feed bunk eating the nutritious feed that will help them to stay warm...

Up at the feed bunk eating the nutritious feed that will help them to stay warm…

A constant source of fresh water is vitally important to our cattle’s well-being.  When the snow is blowing and the temperatures hover around zero, it is a challenge to keep our water tanks free of ice.  We have temperature control valves in each of our tanks which helps the water move around the tank and remain open despite the frigid temperatures.  Sometimes we have to chip ice off of the tanks when the valve system fails to keep the waters open.

Water is important --- no matter if is it warm or cold...

Water is important — no matter if is it warm or cold…

I am always amazed that even in times of brutal weather, the cattle still want to run and play around their home pens.  I have on so many layers of clothing that I waddle like a penguin, but the cattle deftly chase each other demonstrating that to them it is spunky weather.

They are far more agile than I am in the bone chilling cold...

They are far more agile than I am…

Down the gravel road about a mile, the Mama cows of some of the cattle in the feed yard are grazing a corn stalk field and gestating next year’s calf crop.  They also seem to take the cold weather in stride (at least better than this Florida girl does…).

I laughed as I watched her calmly eat the corn stalk that she rummaged from the field...

I laughed as I watched her calmly eat the corn stalk that she rummaged from the field…

Although I love the seasons because they mark a simple passage of time, winter is my least favorite of the four.  Each year, about the middle of February, my toes want to bury themselves in the warm sand of a Florida beach instead of bundling up inside my winter boots!

The ice and snow turn this black calf into a white/gray color...

It is amazing to me that the snow/ice can make a black calf look this color!

What do you do to get through the cold winter months?

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Filed under CAFO, General