Tag Archives: weather

The definition of disaster

Yesterday, I posted about the devastation that hit the upper Midwest. So many farmers and ranchers lost so much in the blink of an eye. People were quick to share photos and stories of heartbreak, but the questions also started pouring in.

So I’m going to attempt to answer a few, from this North Dakota farmer’s point of view. Please remember, these are my thoughts and reasons, but I’m hoping to give just a bit of insight.

It’s the Dakotas, why aren’t you ready for a blizzard?

Well, it’s pretty simple: it was the first week of October. Although snow is always a possibility, just about any month, the early snow falls are usually fast, wet and disappear. It was predicted to snow, but not even the most cynical of weatherman predicted it would hit that fast, that hard and bring with it the winds that were present.

There were 26 named winter storms across the country last year, according to The Weather Channel. There were many, many storms that hit our area throughout the winter. We don’t usually name them, and they don’t usually impact our lives too much. This was unexpected and beyond our realm of normal.

Why weren’t the cattle cared for?

This is plain not true. These cattle were being cared for in just the way that many ranchers care for their cattle. A few weeks ago, I explained on my own blog that our cattle spend a majority of their time at pasture. Which is just where most of these cattle were, out to pasture.

Our cattle spend the summer, and part of fall, on grass.

Our cattle spend the summer, and part of fall, on grass.

You see, in my case, our pasture is located about 15 miles from our farm. The land is hilly, rolling and wouldn’t be suited for farming. Yet, it makes the perfect pasture. If a storm were to hit suddenly, and packing the punch that this one did, there is no way I could drive to the pasture, have them loaded up and brought home – and do so safely – in anything less than a day.

This is how we get our cattle to and from our pasture. It takes about a day to bring them all home, or take them all to pasture.

This is how we get our cattle to and from our pasture. It takes about a day to bring them all home, or take them all to pasture.

This is what our pasture looks like. Not quite as hilly as the area where the storm hit, but you can get an idea of what it would be like.

This is what our pasture looks like. Not quite as hilly as the area where the storm hit, but you can get an idea of what it would be like.

OK, I get it, it was a freak storm, the cattle were on grass…but why did they die?

Good question. The storm hit fast, the snow was heavy and many suffocated under the weight of the snow, or ended up disoriented and wandered into a more dangerous area. Snow accumulates and builds in drifts, much like sand dunes. When the wind blows like it did last weekend, it creates very dangerous drifts. You can see how the cows tend to gather in this video I made a few years ago, when I went out to check them after a blizzard. If the cattle gathered like this in an area that was protected from the wind, they may have ended up buried in a snow drift.

You would think that a building would provide protection from snow, but it can actually collect more snow than an open area.

You would think that a building would provide protection from snow, but it can actually collect more snow than an open area.

Here’s the one thought I would like for you to take away from all of this: In the Dakotas, we deal with these types of storms every year. It had nothing to do with lack of care or not knowing how to handle the weather. It had everything to do with timing. The fact that we handle hundreds of winter storms without a loss every year speaks volumes to the care that we provide our animals.

The ranches and farms that were impacted by this storm need our support and resources to get them back on their feet. We can all help out and do our part.

As I sit at my computer, typing this post and considering the challenges that face those to the west of me…all while in a severe thunderstorm watch…I can’t help but shake my head at the irony of it all.

A blizzard last week? Potential for tornadoes this week? Perhaps this government shutdown is even getting to Mother Nature? (Sarcasm…that’s sarcasm.)

I can tell you that the farm and ranch community will rally around their fellow farmers and ranchers and do what they can to help each other out. But the fact is, we may lose a few farms and ranches…and when our numbers drop, the effect is felt throughout the country.

The storm may have hit a small area, but we will all feel it.

Here’s another point of view from a ranch west of the storm.

National Day of Prayer

The Drought of 2012 is predicted to go down in history as the worst drought in 50 years.  People all over the United States and the world are being affected by the lack of rain.  Crops have withered away, pastures are not growing, and farmers are looking for a way to keep clean water available to their livestock. With harvest just starting in some states we will begin to see just how bad the drought has affected the corn crop along with the other commodities.   In the next few months many farming and ranching families are going to be feeling the affects of higher feeding costs for their livestock.  Many people have also been affected by prairie fires that have taken lots of pasture acres that were so desperately needed.

 Today Thursday, Aug. 23, the American Farm Bureau Federation is asking Americans to join them in a National Day of Prayer for the people being affected by the drought.  There are many individuals and families facing severe struggles due to this year’s devastating drought.  There truly is not a person involved in agriculture this year who has not been adversely affected by the drought of 2012 in at least some way.  Even every consumer will also be affected.

Please join the American Farm Bureau and all of us farmers and ranchers in a National Day of Prayer.  Let’s pray for abundant rain to start nationwide and for those people are dealing with such hardship.  It is a great way to support everyone being challenged by this ongoing drought.

Learning to Ride the Farming Roller Coaster

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Life is a Roller Coaster?!?” This describes the life of a farmer very well. I am Crystal Wooldridge and I didn’t grow up on a farm, so adjusting to a farmers way of life has been a learning experience for me! I have been on my husband’s family farm for four and half years now and seem to have settled in pretty well. It did take a little getting used to, but I’ve learned you just pick up, go with the flow, and help where help is needed and WHENEVER it is needed.
 
Last spring everything was going great. We had 46 new heifers that we were raising to calf in the spring of 2012 and the hay meadows were looking great. We got all of hay equipment serviced and started getting geared up for an amazing hay season!! We have on gentleman that works on the farm with my husband who has been there since he was 16 years old. He is now 70 and can’t quite do everything that he used to. So, when it comes to cutting, raking, and baling the hay – Marty and I do most of it but he has a few friends that will come help him during the day while I am at work. Before I leave my office, I change into my hay baling clothes, and head to the field. We had some very late nights last spring. We baled about 400 acres – 1,500 bales – from the middle of April to the middle of June, mostly by ourselves!
 
It took me about two years to convince Marty that I could do this!!! He just didn’t want to ask me to come work in the field with him after spending a long hard day in the office. I kept telling him that it was a different kind of work for me! I enjoy getting on MY tractor with the radio going (and air conditioning) and just raking away. There were many evenings I had to make him turn on his lights, just so we could finish and get those last 10 bales baled!! He then accused me of working him too hard.
 
I have to admit that I was glad to see the end of that first cutting, but I had no idea it would be the ONLY cutting of hay for 2011. Around August or September, Marty tried to cut one field but it just wasn’t worth it. It was the first field we cut for the year and we only got a fifth of the bales we got out of the first cutting. He decided that was it, no more. We were officially in a drought, the worst drought in 11 years. Going into the fall, we started feeding cubes with my newest wedding/anniversary/birthday present – the cuber or the cube wagon. We fed cubes three times a week for about 2 months with minimal hay, until we HAD to start feeding a full serving. We then started cubing twice a week and putting out hay.
 
After about 150 days without rain and 100+ days with 100+ degree temperatures, we started getting about one inch of rain a week for quite a few weeks in a row. Then we got a couple of inches a rain once a week for a few weeks in a row, and we have never been so happy to see this wonderful rain falling from the sky! Over the next three months, with lots of rain and mild winter, the pastures are greener than they have ever been and the cows are “happy cow!!”
 
Around March 7, 2012, the 46 heifers that we were raising started calving. As of today, we have 4 left!!! We are currently in the processing of getting our hay equipment serviced and getting geared up for an AMAZING hay season. We have a new tractor and a new baler this year, and we are hoping to break them in right next week.