Cattle ranchers contend with cold



February 3, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Wednesday’s clear skies gave a reprieve to beleaguered farmers struggling to care for cattle in open fields throughout Allen County.
Eddyra Nelson, who with her husband Delbert runs about 100 head north of Iola, at Geneva and LaHarpe, said “We’re lucky — we don’t have any calving yet.”
With the heavy, drifting snow, “Just getting them fed is hard,” she said. “We take them big bales of hay with the 4-wheel drive and tractor,” she added. Chopping ice goes without saying.
Eddyra said her son Robert had to come fetch her Wednesday in his 4-wheel drive vehicle to feed the farm cats because her minivan wouldn’t make it through the snow. Robert cut holes in ponds and gave the cattle extra feed.
“They didn’t make it out to the ones in LaHarpe,” she said, “But we had warning about the storm, so they gave them extra the day before,” she noted.
Steve Strickler, of Strickler’s Dairy in Iola, said he is concerned about calves out in open fields north of the farm office.
“The one’s I’m concerned about are the open air pens,” Strickler said during the midst of Tuesday’s blizzard. “We just ride around on the four-wheelers and make sure they have fresh food.”
He said many cattle will stay behind the farm’s 6-foot-high windbreaks, made of baled recycled tires.
As for Strickler, “I’m trying to stay in the office and do computer work today,” he chuckled.
Ruth Mueller, who with husband Larry has cattle on Mississippi Road, said they are doing all right. “We don’t have any calving,” she said. What calves they do have were born last spring, and “they’re big and healthy,” she noted.
Craig Mentzer also was grateful. “We won’t be calving until Feb. 20 or so,” he said.
He’s taking precautions against the cold, though.
“Most of my ponds have automatic watering systems,” he said, that circulate water through nearby tanks. That allows Mentzer to fence off the ponds proper, in order to keep cows off the ice.
“They’re not supposed to freeze,” he said of the circulation tanks, “but they’re freezing now.”
“We’ll have to chop ice, but it’s not as bad as chopping on a pond,” he added.
The fields he has where ponds have not been fenced, he said, “worry me. We have a few where they do get on the ice and it’s not a good situation.” Those cattle require frequent checking on, Mentzer said.
“I’ve lost a few over the years” to ice break, he added.
Mentzer also scraped feeding spots and bladed behind windbreaks, he said, to ensure the cattle could get to food and shelter.
“If we keep them out of the wind, that’s 90 percent of it. We put down old, poor quality hay” for bedding at the windbreaks, he said. “They’ll probably eat half of it.”
The Mentzers have more than 200 cattle “about 2 miles east of Neosho Falls” in Allen County.
To get to them all, “we had to take the tractor and blade a path before the feed truck could go through,” Wednesday afternoon.
The bitter cold is supposed to let up this weekend, with more snow predicted for Monday.

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