I was in elementary school during the infamous “Blizzard of 1997.” Snowed in for 11 days without electricity, I vowed to my parents that I would never live on a ranch when I grew up because feeding cows in this cold and blowing snow wasn’t much fun at all. Ironically, I’m back at home ranching with my folks and husband; isn’t it funny how we eat our words once in a while?
If I had to pick my worst winter ever, the 1996-97 season would be it. That winter, tens of thousands of cattle died in the region. Even though my family didn’t lose any calves, we spent our days scooping out snow-drifted feed bunks, hauling hay bales by pickup because our tractors wouldn’t start, and cooking soup over candles because we didn’t have heat or electricity in the house.
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Even though this week is finally starting to feel like spring, I know we aren’t out of the woods yet where winter is concerned. After all, last winter ran well into April, with April and May blizzards that plagued late spring-calving cattlemen and far outweighed the severity of anything that had come in the months before.
Likewise, this winter started early for folks, particularly in western South Dakota, where winter storm Atlas wiped out up to 75,000 head of cattle. As we ranch east of the Missouri River, the blizzard missed us, but the worst of this winter has been the extremely cold temperatures. They have made calving a nightmare, with many calves spending a lot of time in the hot box, the bed of the pickup, the heated shop, and even a few in my bathtub.
This week’s poll on beefmagazine.com asks, “How would you rank this winter’s severity?”
With 127 votes in so far, 43% say this has been among the worst five winters ever. Another 27% of you say it was bad, but not near the worst, while 20% consider this their worst winter, and 11% say it hasn’t been that bad.
Be sure to read through the comments section as well, as there is some great discussion on how folks are faring this winter across the country. If you have a minute, please add to the discussion and let us know how you’re doing this winter.
So inquiring minds like to know, how would you rank this winter? Do you think it’s about over yet, or are we due for another burst of bad winter weather? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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