During a winter storm, snow plows won’t help the cows.
For livestock producers in Boone County, ice storms may translate into cold, and sometimes injured, animals.
“Cattle can’t do the splits,” said Tim Kelley, state executive director of the Missouri Farm Services Agency.
Often scared by falling limbs — or the sound of them breaking — cattle can “take off running,” slip on the ice and injure themselves, Kelley said.
But falling cows aren’t the only product of severe winter weather for farms. According to Mark Stewart, a livestock specialist with the MU Extension based out of Calloway County, livestock producersare faced with other problems:
• Trucks and cars don’t travel well on slick gravel roads, which are difficult to clear. “With ice, they don’t really have a good method (of clearing),” Stewart said. Pickup trucks might not be heavy enough to get through the ice as a tractor could.
• In some years, ice on the grass means farmers must switch to hay.
• Cattle might require energy supplements or higher-quality feed when they are left standing in the cold with wet coats.
Then there’s the issue of falling cows. “Last year I talked to a couple of producers who had livestock fall and break legs,” Stewart said. “And there’s not much you can do, because everything is frozen.”
Stewart added that many livestock producers injure themselves, as well. “I heard about more people falling and getting hurt taking care of livestock than I heard about livestock getting hurt,” he said.
Worse still, this week’s ice storms arrive as some farms are still recovering from last winter.
“In southwest Missouri, they’re just now finishing up the fence repairs and debris removal from the ice storms of January of last year,” Kelley said.
Farm Services offers what it calls the Emergency Conservation Program, allowing farmers to apply for aid to remove debris and repair fences after natural disasters or severe weather. Through a cost-share program , the FSA will pay for a portion of the repairs. Farmers apply through their county FSA offices.
Kelley said hundreds of farmers participated in ECP following last January’s ice storms. Laclede and Polk counties each had more than 450 farmers apply for assistance.
“Right now, I don’t know if there’s been enough damage to warrant the ECP. We haven’t gotten the results from the various counties,” Kelley said.