JEFFERSON CITY - While most Missourians seek shelter from the winter storm heading toward the state, cattle farmers race into blizzard conditions in their trucks to bring food and clean water to their livestock.
Former cattle farmer Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, raised concerns regarding the welfare of the cattle in the face of the winter storm. He said one of the worst in memory was a 1970s snowstorm that kept farmers away from their cattle for more than three days before they were able to bulldoze through the snowdrifts to reach them.
The executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, Jeff Windett, said he is confident the cattle of Missouri will survive the next few days without any adverse effects on their health. He said his confidence stems from a history of bad snowstorms in Missouri: although they are not characteristic of the region, Windett said they have happened several times in the past few years.
Windett also noted that a herd of cattle can withstand the cold temperatures, but problems are linked instead to the moisture they will have to endure. According to Windett, the presence of moisture requires significantly more feed be provided to the cattle in their pastures, and the drifts that are likely to be produced by the high winds will obstruct the paths farmers need to get to their herds.
"That's why most of our producers are getting their hay sources closer to the cattle," Windett said.
In northern states, cattle farmers tend to maintain large shelters and barns to house their cattle during intense snowstorms. Stouffer said those shelters are, for the most part, unnecessary in Missouri.
"If you're a commercial producer [of cattle in Missouri], the chances for you having shelter for your livestock is close to zero," he said. "It's not something [Missouri cattle farmers] require."
Stouffer described the seriousness of the situation for cattle farmers as contingent on the amount of precipitation the region will receive.
"The concerns we have starts off with this rain because the cattle won't have a chance to dry off," Stouffer said. "It takes a tremendous amount of feed to burn that [precipitation] off. ... With the snow and the 40 mph winds, the drifts will be extremely difficult to deal with."
Windett said some farmers are taking precautions Monday, such as getting cattle to pastures with windbreaks, transporting big bales of hay, which can last a few days, and making sure their water supply is not affected.
Stouffer said this storm is worrisome because it is the last of several in quick succession.
"The first storms are not too bad on the livestock as long as they've got some shelter from the wind, but we've had one after another," Stouffer said. "The stress of the storms probably weighs on them more than single event. It is additive."
He said although the cattle may look fine and do well, the herd may be stricken with weak calf syndrome as a result of the stressful weather.