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Following the Floods: Ranchers still recovering from 2019 floods

Posted at 9:43 AM, Mar 31, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nearly a mile of sand, what looks like a beach, with water flowing through Drew Wolfe’s property, was once a field filled with corn.

"There was an ice jam and that is what forced the Platte River abruptly across this area," Wolfe said.

And on March 14 Wolfe knew he had to move fast.

"At a point, we knew it was time to evacuate, and we and we just did what we could."

Within a matter of hours, he had to open the gate and leave hoping his cattle could make it.

"You don't know what's going to happen," Wolfe said. "You've got all these baby calves. You know there's cows that are calving. You’re their caretaker. That’s my job. It’s my job to provide for them and the unknown. What’s going on, that’s the hardest part."

After it hit, he spent days looking for his cattle.

"We had cattle that swam, got on high ridges. We had a bunch of mother cows that walked three or four miles into some neighbor's cornfield," Wolfe said. "There’s cattle everywhere. Literally everywhere."

But in the end, hundreds died.

Hank Klosterman says many of his cattle were either pregnant or had recently given birth.

"When it got that high really, any kind of cattle couldn't survive the flood," Klosterman said. "They couldn't swim and couldn't make it through the trees especially the cattle that had calved out."

Klosterman said he had abut 90 calves at the time.

"And the flood came in and wiped out most of what we had on that parcel."

The few calves that did survive that spring had an uphill battle.

"We fought pneumonia, just different things, everything was still wet," Wolfe said. "We still had some cold weather after that. The moms were stressed, not only trying to provide for a newborn calf, their bodies were trying to repair to rebreed to have another calf for next year, so it was pretty stressful for them. "

Talia Goes with the Nebraska Cattlemen says the floods coupled with a rough winter hit the cattle industry hard.

"They estimated 400 million in cattle losses alone, and that doesn't include this crop ground that is here that Drew [Wolfe] lost; that was another 440 million in losses."

And for Wolfe, the flood damage still hasn’t stopped.

"It's flooded five times since the flood through this field, and all that water affects numerous people downstream," said Wolfe.

Wolfe and Klosterman say one good thing did come out of this: they saw so many people in their community and across the country do what they could to help. Nebraska Cattlemen was able to raise nearly $2 million to help local ranchers.