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Water, protein key issues for ranchers during cold snaps

By BY ALLISON MILES - SPECIAL TO THE ADVOCATE
Jan. 14, 2014 at midnight
Updated Jan. 13, 2014 at 7:14 p.m.

Farm animals can withstand frigid outside temperatures if they're cared for properly with food, water and shelter.

Looking ahead

For a full look at the coming days' forecasts, see Page A6.

Recent cold fronts that slammed the United States brought more than chilly nights and the need to bundle up.

For ranchers, it also meant a bit of added care to keep things running smoothly.

Water issues take front and center during extremely cold conditions, said Peter McGuill, Texas AgriLife Extension agent for Victoria County.

Cattle burn more energy when chilly weather strikes, he explained, and they also drink more water. So a broken water line or iced-over trough could spell trouble.

He urged ranchers to inspect their lines, troughs and pump houses to make sure things remain in working order but also to expect the unexpected.

McGuill recalled his own cold and wet experiences repairing broken lines in 28-degree conditions.

"You're as prepared as you can be," he said of extreme weather events. "You can be ready for a storm to hit, but you know it's going to be a lot of work when it gets there. There's not a whole lot you can do."

Water is not the only consideration, however.

Lower temperatures also lead ranchers to put out protein and hay for cattle, said Mark Dierlam, a partner with Dierlam Feed Store. And that brings them to feed stores.

Dierlam said his shop has seen added business recently. While that's a good thing, he said his store, like most others at the moment, doesn't have an overabundance of available feed.

"We're just getting by, but we're managing to keep up," he said.

And while Dierlam attributed part of that recent demand to colder-than-usual conditions, he said economics are another key factor.

Increased cattle prices, such as the area sees now, put many ranchers in a somewhat healthier financial situation.

"When cattle prices are good, people take better care of their cattle," he said with a laugh. "We even eat a little better ourselves. It's been a good year."

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