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Nebraska farmers adjust to keep livestock safe during subzero cold

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Posted at 12:38 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-20 16:09:30-05

DODGE COUNTY, Neb. (KMTV) — Farmers and ranchers have a long list of jobs to do every day, but with the bitterly cold temperatures we've been experiencing — their work gets even harder.

3 News Now's Arianna Martinez saw how they adjust to keep their livestock safe.

Nebraskans are used to the cold but this long stretch of frigid temperatures is not something anyone has seen in a while.

"The goal is for the cattle to be comfortable because they are going to be healthier,” said Joan Ruskamp of J&S Feedlot. “Healthy cattle will continue to grow and at some point provide nutrient dense food for families to enjoy. We always keep in mind the connection between care for animals and the food they provide."

Ruskamp explained they have to monitor their pipes just as people do in their homes. Their pipes not only carry water, but the liquid protein used to feed the cattle.

"We're feeding them a diet that provides energy,” Ruskamp said. “Cattle are ruminant. What that means is they have like a fermentation vat inside and that ferments feed and produces a lot of energy. "Their digestion system along with the thick hide and hair coat allow cattle to handle cold weather really well."

The extreme cold weather makes driving conditions difficult, especially in smaller towns where many livestock are located.

"It's getting feed here, it's plants having cold weather issues, plants having labor issues because people can't get to work. It just kinda has a domino effect...cold weather impacts everybody," Ruskamp said. "During these long cold stretches that we have been experiencing, improvements like these metal windbreaks were put in place to help cattle handle extreme cold when wind can add greater discomfort. No matter what season we are in, we are always looking for ways to minimize the extreme conditions."

Along with the man-made windbreaks, J&S Feedlot planted hundreds of trees along their property to block some of the wind.

"We use corn stalks for bedding so that way they can lay on that and that will pull the moisture off of them,” said Ruskamp.

Even though the feedlot does not deal with calves, a lot of farms and ranches are going through calving season.

"When we keep cattle dry, they are able to sustain the cold weather really well,” said Ruskamp. That's their goal, too, "get the calf dry, get him drinking that colostrum...that first milk from its mama."

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