Farmer Focus: Cold snap may bring health benefits

I hate winter. I hate cold. I hate snow. Kansas is located pretty much in the middle of the North American continent. 

That means that sometimes we get hot Gulf of Mexico air and sometimes, unfortunately, the Canadians forget to shut the door and we get really cold spells. 

Heading into the new year it hadn’t been above freezing for more than a week. A high of -7C felt amazing.  

For a couple of nights our lows were about -36C with the wind chill. Nothing works right when it is that cold. 

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Since we aren’t set up for this sort of cold, nothing has heaters. Water tanks freeze constantly, so twice a day you go out with an axe and pitchfork so the cattle can drink. 

If equipment doesn’t have a block heater and is plugged in overnight, it is absolutely worthless.  If you manage to get it running, the fuel will gel up or the hydraulic oil will break something. 

I went to haul cattle in the truck, only to learn a seal in the water pump had gone out when the whole thing contracted and I dumped all the anti-freeze (this happened twice because I am a slow learner). 

The cattle, however, get along amazingly well. We increase the energy in their diets and let the rumen do the work. 

I have heard of some people who are calving and that is going as expected. We don’t calve until March and this has reminded us why.

I suppose there are some benefits to this cold weather. We haven’t had a cold spell like this for a few years and our tick populations have really skyrocketed. 

With them we have seen a rise in anaplasmosis, which is a tick-borne disease. I didn’t see a single tourist or sightseer last week either – most time they are worse than ticks. 

There is a saying here that “If you don’t like the weather in Kansas, wait.” Before I know it, spring will be here and the weather will be perfect. 

And soon after that it will be 40C and humid and we will be complaining about that instead.

Daniel Mushrush is a third-generation Red Angus breeder in the Flint Hills, Kansas. The Mushrush family runs 800 pedigree-registered Red Angus Cattle and 600 commercials across 4,856ha, selling 200 bulls a year and beef through Mushrush Family Meats.