Over 1 million readers this year!

Cold Agriculture

Local ranchers worked together to get a cow safely removed removed from a prairie dog hole in -16º weather. (Video: Justin Holcomb)

Local ranchers worked together to get a cow safely removed removed from a prairie dog hole in -16º weather. (Video: Justin Holcomb)

Local producers work through sub-zero temps

He’s no stranger to frigid winter weather, local rancher and horseman Shawn Acord said Wednesday, but recent lows have been a doozey. Just last week, he was forced to harness his team of horses to feed the lot and cattle.

“It was so cold out, my equipment wouldn’t run,” he said. The John Deer tractor and Vermeer bale processor simply wouldn’t start.

At the Faddis-Kennedy Ranch north of town, the wind chill factor reached -45 degrees, he said.

“I ran the team (of horses), and we rolled out one bale at a time,” he continued matter-of-factly.

Shawn Acord uses draft horses to distribute feed to horses and cattle during inclement weather. (Photo: Shawn Acord)
Shawn Acord uses draft horses to distribute feed to horses and cattle during inclement weather. (Photo: Shawn Acord)

Seven hours later, 70 head of horses and 1,400 head of cattle were fed for the day.

It wasn’t easy keeping warm, Acord observed.

“You’re always moving,” he said. “And when it gets almost too cold to bear, you get off and walk alongside the horses to warm up. Had to do that a few times.”

Stories like Acord’s are not unique to the men and women of Wyoming or the ag world in general.

The work doesn’t stop when temperatures drop, as several local producers noted.

Last week, Campbell County banker and rancher Justin Holcomb took to social media to demonstrate just how much local ranchers care about their livestock, especially during these chilly bouts.

In a Feb. 11 Facebook post, Holcomb wrote, “Some will say ranchers don’t care about the animals! You want the truth? Here it is. I got a call from my business partner’s wife at 3:30 (p.m.), saying we have a cow stuck in a prairie dog hole! She was feeding the herd while we were at our day jobs — because it is almost impossible to just raise cows without a side job — and I left my day job to help her save this cow.”

He added, “We got the cow out and she is doing just fine.”

Justin said Wednesday that the real purpose behind his message is simple: ranchers value their livestock, not just the bottom line.

“Negative 16 degrees does not matter,” he said. “We care about our animals.”

Diana Ballou Behnke, a school bus driver who ranches south of Gillette off Highway 59, agreed.

When speaking with County 17 Wednesday about lambing 11 mothers and 16 offspring this year “in -34 temperatures without wind chill,” she said their electric bills are already showing the family’s commitment to their animals.

Baile Behnke, 12, bottle feeds a bum lamb near the stove in her basement. (Photo: Diana Ballou Benhke)
Baile Behnke, 12, bottle feeds a bum lamb near the stove in her basement. (Photo: Diana Ballou Benhke)

“We had to keep everybody locked in — all the mamas and the babies — and the lambs under heat lamps,” she said, noting the family will likely only “break even” on these expenses, but not profit.

Only once before did her flock need kept indoors, she said. That was just last year when temperatures also dropped dramatically.

“We make it work,” she said. “We always do.”

Advertisement

Related