Feedyards on the High Plains are scrambling to recover from a massive weekend snow storm that blanketed western Kansas, eastern Colorado and stretched from the Panhandle of Texas to Nebraska. Death losses will number in the thousands at feedyards and to pasture cattle, many of which were displaced by the storm.
Poky Feeders general manager Joe Morgan says he’s been in the commercial cattle feeding business since 1983, “and this is the most devastating storm I’ve ever witnessed.”
The National Weather Service reported 15 inches to 18 inches of snow fell in the hardest hit areas of western Kansas. As much as 75% of the U.S. cattle on feed were affected by the storm. Power outages included at least 42,000 customers by two power cooperatives in western Kansas.
The power went out at Poky on Saturday night and was off until late Sunday evening. Backup generators were used to power the mill, but the storm continued to hamper efforts to feed the 80,000 cattle at the yard. With most roads in the area closed, the feedyard crew was forced to spend Saturday night at the yard.
“It was literally snowing so hard we couldn’t see to feed,” Morgan said. “We had power lines breaking and power poles breaking. We normally feed three times a day, but yesterday (Sunday) we were only able to feed twice. We started at 6 a.m. and finished at 10:30 p.m.”
Compounding the misery for cattle and workers was the fact that it rained prior to the snow storm and rained again after. That will leave feedyard pens in bad shape and hamper cattle performance.
“The cattle are stressed after a storm like this, and they’d like to lay down but it’s just a mess,” Morgan said. “We’re too busy at this point to scrape pens, so they’ll just have to tough it out a few days.”
The storm means cattle on feed across the region are backed up on feed consumption and their overall performance will suffer. That fact comes just after cash fed cattle traded $5 to $6 higher last week and cattle weights already running 35 pounds lighter than last year.
“The effects of this storm suggests the market will be higher longer,” Morgan says. “Weights will continue to drop due to the poor performance” which will hold total beef supplies down in the near-term.”