A number of factors all happened simultaneously to create a situation of very high energy needs and high stress in cattle and other livestock. Any one of the following factors could have an impact by itself, but when all combined, it was simply too much for the animals and they most likely succumbed to hypothermia.
The contributing factors included:
- Animals were not adapted to winter conditions. Cattle will grow a thicker hair coat in response to shorter days, and cooler temperatures. But temperatures prior to the storm were in the 70°’s. For cattle, this meant they had thin hair coats and little protection from the elements.
- Snow was preceded by hours of rain. A wet hair coat reduces the “insulation” that the hair and hide provide and increases the rate of heat loss from the body. For example, a cow with a wet hair or summer hair coat has critical temperature of 59°, while one with a dry, heavy winter coat has a critical temperature of 18°. The critical temperature is the temperature at which the animal must increase its metabolism, or burn its own energy, to maintain its body temperature. The further the effective temperature is below the critical temperature, the more energy the animal must use to maintain its body temperature. See “Spring Storms and Cold Stress” for more detailed information.
- Winds in this blizzard were recorded up to 60 mph. Both research and practical experience show what a difference “wind chill” has on effective temperature. The range and pastures that are grazed during summer months are typically “open” – without constructed windbreaks, and usually very few natural windbreaks. With the storm so early in the year, most livestock were still out on summer range and pastures. Thus, animals felt the full intensity of the wind.
- The hair coat, temperature, moisture and wind combination meant the animals’ energy needs to maintain body temperature were much higher than even during a “normal” winter blizzard.
- Coupled with the very high energy needs of the animals was the fact that most of the feed the cattle were currently eating was quite low in energy. Cattle grazing lush green grass makes a beautiful picture, but the reality is that lush, rapidly growing green grass is very high in moisture and low in energy per pound of feed consumed. The unusually large rainfall in September had created this rapidly growing grass in many areas. Under normal weather conditions, cattle were able to consume large quantities of grass to meet and even exceed their energy needs. But under blizzard conditions, it was not possible for them to consume adequate amounts of forage to meet their much higher than normal energy needs.
- To try to escape or reduce the harsh wind, cattle will walk with the wind and seek areas of shelter, such as draws and ravines. Walking through heavy, wet and deep snow increased their energy needs even more. The severity of the snow fall also meant that the animals were walking blind, and could easily fall in to gullies, walk into a stock dam or creek, or gather into a fence corner and face crushing and trampling.
With all the factors above combining effects, exhaustion and the inability to maintain their own body temperature finally caused cattle to simply stop and succumb to hypothermia.
Posts tagged cows.
Excellent reporting by Carey Gillam of Reuters. Gillam dives into how the ranchers and families will cope with the losses. The federal government shut down comes into play, as does a tax-payer subsidized bailout for their losses under the - imo - ridiculously bloated and unfairly skewed US Farm Bill.
The story of why nearly 100,000 head of cattle perished is a complicated one, one not just due to freak weather. And Gillam really nails it.
Swirling snow lodged in some of the animals’ lungs, suffocating them. Hypothermia killed more. And others were caught in gullies, or plunged off slickened rock ledges, livestock experts said.
"I’ve been in this business 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Jobgen, who estimated her family lost nearly half of its herd of 350 when the storm swept through October 3-5. “The vision of seeing all these cattle dead is something you can’t wipe out of our eyes.”
South Dakota had the sixth-largest cattle herd in the United States with some 3.85 million head in January 2013, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Most of those are in the western part of the state, where the storm struck, leaving carcasses strewn on the Plains and hitting ranchers with tens of millions of dollars in losses.
It is estimated that as many as 100,000 cattle have been killed as the result of the unseasonal snowstorm that dropped as much as four feet of snow on western South Dakota.
Freak storm in South Dakota. Strangely, this storm is somehow blamed on the government shut down.
Hang up the harpoons, Japan
Four good reasons it should stop ‘scientific’ whaling. Here.
A $330,000 burger made entirely from synthetic meat is to be eaten in London on Monday.
It’ll be live streamed 12pm BST (7am EST): http://culturedbeef.net/
Is it an internet hoax?
Food production clip from Samsara.
Quite literally architecture/design of doom.
Corn prices too high due to this year’s drought. So, he’s fattening his cows with chocolate. Via Kentucky local ABC57.
Federal law allows the Agriculture Department to buy meat and poultry products to help farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters.
The announcement came as Obama criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for blocking a farm bill that could help farmers cope with the drought. Obama touted his efforts to help farmers as he began a three-day tour of the battleground state he won in 2008.
“That will help ranchers who are going through tough times right now,” Obama said.
Obama said the government would boost its purchases of meat now, while prices are low, and freeze much of it for later use.
The USDA plans to buy up to $100 million of additional pork products, $50 million of chicken, $10 million of lamb and $10 million of catfish. The Defense Department, a large purchaser of beef, pork and lamb, was expected to look for ways to encourage its vendors to speed up purchases of meat.
“The purchases will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA nutrition programs,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
The USDA has spent about $37 million on pork products so far this year. If it spends an additional $100 million, that would be more than twice what the agency spent on pork in 2011.
Obama has pledged a wide-ranging response to the drought. His administration is giving farmers and ranchers access to low-interest emergency loans, opening more federal land for grazing and distributing $30 million to get water to livestock.
Good reporting on government handouts to private businesses via CBS.
More tangible examples of climate impacts.
Western Fires Kill Thousands of Cattle
Across the West, major wildfires are wreaking havoc this summer on the region’s economically fragile livestock industry. In areas such as remote Powder River County, Mont., ranchers says they could be grappling with the devastation for years to come.
Hay is in short supply. Hundreds of miles of fence and numerous corrals and water tanks must be rebuilt. Thousands of head of displaced livestock are being shipped to temporary pastures. Similar scenes are playing out in Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho. Including Montana, the value of the six states’ cattle industries approaches $9 billion annually.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news-Western-Fires-Kill-Hundreds-of-Cattle-072712.aspx
Forest Service Considers Blowing Up Frozen Cows That Died Inside Of A Colo. Mountain Cabin
DENVER — It may take explosives to dislodge a group of cows that wandered into an old ranger cabin high in the Rocky Mountains, then died and froze solid when they couldn’t get out.
The carcasses were discovered by two Air Force Academy cadets when they snow-shoed up to the cabin in late March. Rangers believe the animals sought shelter during a snowstorm and got stuck and weren’t smart enough to find their way out.
The cabin is located near the Conundrum Hot Springs, a nine-mile hike from the Aspen area in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area.”
Here’s the secret of the modern dairy farm: The essential high-tech advances aren’t in machinery. They’re inside the cow.
Take a cow like Claudia. She lives at Fulper Farms, a dairy farm in upstate New Jersey. Claudia is to a cow from the 1930s as a modern Ferrari is to a Model T.
In the 1930s, dairy farmers could get 30 pounds of milk per day from a cow. Claudia produces 75 pounds a day.“Meet Claudia, The High-Tech Cow" - NPR