The month of March brings a variety of changes to Nebraska. We are privileged to live on a migration route for millions of geese, cranes and other birds as they head north signaling the start of spring. March can be frustrating to birds and people when we are teased with sunny, springtime weather one day and a blustery snowstorm the next.
No matter what Mother Nature decides to give us it is important to be prepared for the best and worst of weather conditions. Here are some of the steps we take to be prepared for winter storms in March or any other month:
- Make sure the pantry is full. For our feedlot it means making sure we have plenty of ingredients like corn, Synergy (a corn by-product made by ADM), supplement and ground hay. Our pantry includes bins, open front buildings with bays for different feed ingredients and home grown feed kept under a large plastic tarp held down with a large number of tires.
- Make sure there is plenty of fuel in the barrels. We store diesel and gas on the farm to use in our tractors. Winter storms can delay delivery of fuel and more fuel will be used to take care of the cattle during and after the storm.
- Make sure the generator is ready to go. Losing power can happen during any severe weather. A tractor is used to run the generator. The generator is plugged into a power source providing electricity to keep wells running for water and many other electrical needs the farm has.
- Make sure snow removal equipment is ready to go. We have a bunk blower to remove snow from the feedbunks saving our backs from scooping. We also have a tractor mounted snow blower to move larger quantities of snow. There are several other implements we used to move snow including a front mounted blade, a rear-end bucket and a box scraper.
The goal during any storm is to make sure the cattle are fed as close to the normal time as possible and then get them comfortable places to lay down. Our feedlot is designed to give protection from high winds with trees and metal windbreaks to help cattle handle Nebraska blizzards.
We have cement pads running along the feedbunk on the inside of the pen. Those pads allow us to utilize cornstalk bedding for the cattle to lay on. If we did not have the cement then the bedding would go on wet ground and not last as long as it does on the cement. Here are some of the actions we take during and following a winter storm to care for our cattle:
- Clean the roads around the feedlot to allow the feedtruck to get to feed to the cattle. Sometimes this requires a very early wake up call to get a good start before step 2.
- Clean the bunks of snow before the cattle get fed. If the snow is too wet or too deep we have to help with scoop shovels.
- Feed the cattle as close to the normal time as possible.
- Clean the cement pads in the cattle pens.
- Use the bale processor to put bedding in pens.
- Take the box scraper or bucket into pens to pile snow if needed.
- Haul piled snow out of pens to keep pens as dry as possible.
Farmers and ranchers know Mother Nature is a force to work with. During the month of March she sends us the spring wake up call of geese honking as they fly overhead. She also sends the Robins and Cardinals into the trees as they take cover for a March blizzard. Having a plan and being prepared is what enables us to take better care of our cattle no matter what March, April, May and every other month of the year brings us for weather.