The week of Feb. 7, Arkansas cattle producers were wading through up to 2 feet of snow to keep their cows fed and watered, and protect any calves that might be born with the departure of low atmospheric pressure.
“As far as the snow goes, all area producers are feeding even more hay, for feed and for the animals to bed down,” said Darrin Henderson, Madison County Extension agent for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “The animals don't like to bed down in the snow, so extra hay is helpful in these times.”
Henderson said he spent most of Thursday (Feb. 10) “cutting rounds in and out of pastures so we could get around with the hay trucks. Thursday morning, the temperature was minus-13, with 24 inches of snow on the ground.
The hay is important to help maintain cattle body temperatures.
“When temperatures do drop, feed consumption does increase,” said Tom Troxel, associate head of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s animal science department. “They need the feed to stay warm and keep their metabolism going.”
In addition to haying cattle, a ready supply of drinkable water is essential.
“While we’re nice and warm in our houses, beef cattle producers have to be out three to four times a day to be sure the cattle have fresh water,” said Troxel. “You have to get out there to break the ice and check to see if tanks are broken.”
Another concern is calving.
“Research has also shown a relationship between high pressure weather and calving,” said Troxel. “When you have a nice high front coming through, you see an increase in cows calving.
“The producer has to make sure the newborn calf is dried off and able to take that first drink of milk with colostrums. If the calf gets chilled, they’ll bring it inside and put it under a heat lamp to keep it going.
“If producers have calving cows, they’re going out there three or four times a day to check on them and make sure they have plenty of hay.
“Cattle producers just have to work through the weather the best they can.”
The National Weather Service at North Little Rock reports 8.9 inches of snow so far in February and more than 14 inches since Dec. 1.
The highest snowfalls reported by the National Weather Service were at Siloam Springs, with 24.5 inches. Bentonville, Springdale and Hindsville all reported more than 24 inches. Fayetteville reported 18, while Harrison had 10 inches.
Southern Arkansas didn’t escape the snow either. Monticello and Rison reported 4 inches. Kelso, in Desha County, reported 3 inches.
Henderson said the Clifty area of Madison County received more than 24 inches of snow and “I did hear of three old, out-of-production, chicken houses caving in” on Feb. 9.
For more information on livestock and crop production, contact your county Extension office, or visit www.uaex.edu.