Eastern, and especially Southeastern, Colorado may have been the epicenter of the last two storms that roared through the Central Plains, but most of the major cattle-feeding areas (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas) also were hit hard. Feedlots are still too busy digging out and trying to get feed, water and mills up and running to attempt to market many cattle. Not to mention the stress the animals have been under.
Tighter showlists and reduced hours at the packing level also helped the beef complex rally this week, as fed cattle are expected to trade over $90. The feeder and calf markets also are showing strength -- runs typically would just be picking up in preparation for a couple of huge weeks ahead. But calves will be slow to come to town in January, as buyer demand will remain soft until they have a chance to recover from the storm.
In Colorado, the storm dumped up to 3 ft. of snow, driven by winds of 30-40 mph that made roads impassable for more than a week in some areas. The National Guard finished up searching and rescuing stranded travelers early this week and turned its efforts to helping ranchers locate and get feed to their cattle. Air drops of hay are being conducted to cattle in the hardest hit areas.
Meanwhile, governors of the hardest-hit states are declaring disasters to pave the way for possible federal assistance. Colorado experts say the damage could be worse than the 1997 blizzard where cattle deaths approached 30,000 head and the economic loss totaled $28 million.
There are reports of feedyards losing 1,000 head in the storm. Meanwhile, many ranchers in the affected areas who have battled eight years of drought and promised to never complain about moisture in any form, will be devastated.
It's always amazing how people turn out to help in times of natural disaster. Local snowmobile clubs from Denver are in southeastern Colorado helping locate cattle and get feed to them. But that willingness to help is only trumped by people's resilience. One cattleman interviewed by a local radio station about his inability to reach his cattle, and uncertainty about even where they might be, said: "At least, we'll have a lot of green grass this spring."
-- Troy Marshall