The freezing weather could have potentially deadly consequences for Oklahoma ranchers and farmers. Cattle producers are used to working in all weather conditions, but said the extended cold stretch will take a toll on their livestock.
Oklahoma ranchers started preparing for the extreme weather last week. Agriculture experts said keeping cattle fed is the best way to keep them healthy and alive during the brutal cold snap.
The Tune family normally work around the clock at their northwest Oklahoma ranch, but this winter is presenting new challenges for them and ranchers across the state.
“This being for seven plus days or however long,” said Raegan Tune, Rancher. “That is a little out of our norm and stressful.”
The cattle cannot graze because the grass is frozen, so is the water. The Tunes has to break the ice daily and keep a constant supply of hay.
“The feed helps generate warmth,” said Matt Tune, Rancher. “They can create their own body heat in a sense.”
Many cattle operations are also in the middle of birthing season.
“You have a wet calf come out on the ground in the freezing, and they can freeze,” said Tune.
Veterinarians are available for medical emergencies. However, one vet said ranchers are well equipped to handle newborn calves.
“They’re paying particular attention to those newborns,” said Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, Oklahoma State University veterinarian. “That they have enough cover, that they can get out of the wind both moms and babies and get them dry and nursing quickly.”
Ranchers could take a financial hit but plan to work overtime to protect their livelihoods.
“They’ll be out there for the long haul,” said Biggs.
Because this is a very stressful time, the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association encourages ranchers to take care of their own health to weather the storm.