April storms bring out our best
Unless you’ve been living under a rock – and I wouldn’t blame you if you could find one to shelter you from this incessant wind – you know that Eastern Montana, Northeastern Wyoming, and the Dakotas were blasted with an all-out blizzard last Tuesday through Thursday, April 12-14, 2022.
This is not an April I nor my kids will forget anytime soon.
Here in extreme northwestern South Dakota/southwestern North Dakota we have endured severe drought for two years with higher winds than usual all winter, drying out the soil and blowing loose soil for months.
Predicted moisture ought to be a blessing. And it is. We don’t choose how the Lord blesses us, but we choose to be thankful in all circumstances.
There were many trials and struggles through this year’s mid April blizzard, and as I write this my family is prepping for another one. With this one expected to hit April 22 and last until April 23 at least. But we remain thankful and I will share with you a few of the items we were and are grateful for.
The calm before the storm.
It seems as though, ever since the devastation that the Atlas blizzard wreaked on livestock in this region, many storms are “overblown” by meteorologists in an effort to be sure they don’t miss that next “big one.” I’m not complaining – I’d rather we overprepare than underprepare. I was hoping the forecast was once again being exaggerated, but we prepared nonetheless. This time it wasn’t overblown. We were finishing up lambing and getting ready to calve. We moved cows home, moved heifers home, sorted heifers, tore out bad fence to replace with continuous panels, moved feedbunks home, set up water tanks, bedded, and 12 other things I can’t even remember right now. We were blessed with two beautiful days to prepare for this storm, able-bodied kids to help us prepare, and enough time to do it, many thanks to some great meteorologists in this area.
Tractor tires and “the lost and found sheep.”
I’m thankful that on Monday night as the rain hit and my husband and I were hauling the last load of feed bunks home, that when the truck started slipping on the slick hill up out of the pasture, that the tractor was able to successfully push truck, trailer and bunks up and out, and onto the flat hayfield. I’m thankful that at 4:00 that morning as we were “finishing up” by feeding some May lambing ewes, which we didn’t find because they chose that night of all nights to find a way to unchain a gate and escape, that after searching in what had become a blizzard at that point, we miraculously found them right near the pen! God blessed us immensely.
Tuesday was a cold, wet and windy day but we thought we’d made it through the worst when that night fell. “At least we didn’t get the two feet they were predicting” I said. Nobody should have too many calves buried in drifts, I said. I was wrong. Wednesday brought the full blown blizzard complete with fine, powdery snow, 50 plus mph winds blowing from what seemed like every direction, completely displacing drifts we’d seen on Tuesday night and creating new ones. My family worked together to feed, water and check all of the livestock. We had a scare on Wednesday afternoon when I went to bed and check on some ewes and lambs we had locked into a pen surrounding calf huts which were their shelter. The doors for the huts were completely drifted over with snow. I feared what we would find when we dug the drifts out, and I couldn’t do it without closing up the pen first, because I feared the live sheep would leave in the chaos and blinding snow, and not find their way back. I needed the tractor to first dig the gate out from under a drift so we could close them in before I started looking through the drifts into the shelters. When it was all said and done, every single ewe and lamb ran out of the huts, found a bite of hay to eat while we bedded them, and happily went back to their wind-proof homes. God is good.
I’m thankful for my hardworking family.
I’m thankful for my hardworking co-workers who handily step in to put out the paper when I’m working through a blizzard.
Thursday brought more wind, but we were able to see to get around.
I vividly remember many blizzards through the winter and spring of 1996-1997 including a spring blizzard that resulted in significant calf losses, days with no power, and a lot of family bonding time. My heart is with those who lose cattle in blizzards. It’s a sickening, helpless feeling that has haunted me my entire life.
In the days following this blizzard, I talked to friends and family and of course found stories on social media that gave me a picture of what others endured throughout the storm. Some suffered significant losses, just as I had feared. Cattle drifted out of shelter, confused and crazy in the blinding snow. Older calves were found frozen and dead as drifts subsided, with their mothers standing watch, hoping, waiting for the young one to wake up. Mama cows snuck off to a private place to calve, but were unable to save babies, no matter the amount of licking and nudging.
But, many miraculous stories of new calves surviving even in the heart of the storm help soften the blow of the losses. News of neighbors helping neighbors feed, friends and family making welcome deliveries of the essentials like cookies and coffee, and grandkids spending days and nights working alongside grandparents – these are the news items that remind us that the reward for our work is much greater than the momentary pain.
As a friend pointed out, livestock losses would have been much higher, were it not for the excellent stockmanship of ranchers in our area.
I’m thankful for ranchers.
Rancher friends – our thoughts and prayers are with you as you continue to battle drought, wind, blizzard, dust storms, unseasonably cold temperatures, unusual cattle health issues, and more. While Tri-State Livestock News may be known for our willingness to take on divisive, difficult livestock issues, we whole-heartedly support each and every producer in this great nation without exception, and we are thankful for you and what you do every single day.
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