Northern cattle producers in brunt of Winter Storm Xenia

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In some parts of the country March left like a thick-furred, snow covered lion.

Up to 18 inches of snow was predicted by The Weather Channel to fall in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota from Winter Storm Xenia as it hit the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest area Cow-calf pairs on Keller Broken Heart Ranch stand outside their shelter on Monday, March 31, as Winter Storm Xenia hit the area. Luke Keller says his family worked together to get feed out to the cattle and to bring calves into the shelters to get warm. on Monday, March 31. This spring snowstorm has blanketed the area in less than flower growing conditions.  

Luke Keller of Keller Broken Heart Ranch, Mandan, N.D., says the area is no stranger to late winter storms.

“At the end of April last year, we had about 2.5 feet of snow on the ground after a late storm,” says Keller. “I wouldn’t say they are common, but it’s definitely possible to get them.”

The Keller Broken Heart Ranch was in the heat of spring calving their Simmental and Angus influenced herd when the Xenia came rolling in around 2 a.m. Like many producers in northern territories, the Keller’s have calving barns to use when weather gets thick.

“Yesterday (Sunday) we had about 20 calves and started to move cows with new calves inside in preparation of the storm,” says Keller. “Then last night, about three hours before the storm hit, we had 12 more calves born, so we’re operating at full capacity.”

On March 30, the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association issued a storm warning to members, urging them “to take immediate action to prevent losses from an anticipated major blizzard that may be worse than originally predicted.”

This included moving livestock to sheltered areas to protect them from the expected 45 mile-per-hour winds, urging them to contact local Extension, county law enforcement or the North Dakota Department of Agriculture if help was needed.

Keller says his family pitched in to get feed and water to cattle and to bed down older calves in shelters provided on the ranch.

While the storm was expected to provide steady snowfall and wind all of Monday, around 2:30 p.m., Keller says it seemed the storm had let up, and radar showed the ranch was on the back end of it, and there was only about half a foot of snow on the ground. Later that evening, he says the sun came out and there was about 8 inches of snowfall.

According to the National Weather Service, the area will remained in a Blizzard Warning until 7 p.m. on Monday, with whiteout conditions from high winds.



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