Now's the time to start anticipating and planning for this winter's fury, says Bob Jairell, hydrologic technician at the Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Laramie, WY.
"Since most working corrals and chutes are out in the open and built of 6-in. boards with 6-in. gaps that trap a lot of snow," says Jairell, "look at stormproofing them by using cable instead of wood, or by building a snow fence."
Doing anything to prevent snow pileups can save you a bundle. On average, Jairell estimates it costs 100 times more to mechanically move snow than it does to build a snow fence or windscreen for prevention.
Because natural protection is usually not available on many ranches, producers are increasingly turning to windscreens, Jairell says. They not only protect cattle and workers in winter, but also in any seasonal windy conditions.
Windscreens are completely solid barriers, normally built in a 90 degree V-shape with the "V" pointing into the prevailing wind. The V-shape protection barrier - both temporary and permanent - reduces wind speed and diverts drifting snow. Tests show that barriers should be constructed with a solid face to divert drifting snow around the ends. Otherwise, blowing snow sifts through the porous shelter and forms drifts in the protected area. (See BEEF, May 1990, page 12 and February 1992, page 10).
Designs To Deflect Snow For optimum deflection of drifting snow, the shelter should be no longer than 15 times its height. Jairell says that means both height and length must be adjusted to provide the required protection area for a given herd size. Build it longer than 15 times its height and drifting snow is forced up, over the top of the barrier, to fall on animals in the protection zone.
Windscreens can also be built in a semi-circle design with about the same materials as the V-design, and result in about 25% more snow deflection. The most tangible benefit of windscreen barriers, the researcher says, is a reduction in feed required by the animal to maintain body condition.
Common Sense Blizzard Tips To also help prevent drifting in winter, he says to build roads up from the ground and keep weeds down. And, keep weeds and trash out of fencelines to reduce fence damage. "Cutting grass along fencelines takes time and money, but it costs a lot more to rebuild those fences," he says.
For many producers, natural riparian areas are available. Use them, Jairell says.
He also says you often can do a better job of preparing for a blizzard by listening to weather reports. "If one is coming, lay in more feed and make it accessible. It's just common sense," Jairell says.