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Farmers Trying To Keeping Cattle Warm

January 5, 2014, 10:00 PM by Leland Steva

Farmers Trying To Keeping Cattle Warm
PARKER, SD -

The bitter cold can have a devastating effect on the herd.

Bob Merrill has worked on this Parker farm for decades, and he knows winters in South Dakota are never the same.

"I've been around here since 1957, and there's been a lot of weird ones," Farmer Bob Merrill said.

1997 was a devastating one for herds as hundreds of area cattle died from extreme cold.

This year farmers are dealing with another stretch of bitter cold, and they are doing all they can to prevent any cattle loss, including laying down fresh straw bedding.

"We do that every day and that brings warmth up from underneath and makes the cows very comfortable," Merrill said.

Bob's son Allen has been in charge of the farm for around 15 years. He knows that it might seem strange given the drop in temperature, but water is crucial to keeping cows warm.

"People wonder, why do you give so much attention to the water fountains? Cattle, they still need water in these cold days that's what helps digest the feed that they're eating to create the energy to keep them warm. So, water is very important and we check our water fountains twice a day," Merrill said.

Giving the cows plenty of food to digest is crucial to create as much energy as possible to battle the elements.

"We got to keep them fed, well fed with high quality feed because they eat a lot more when it's cold. That's how they produce their heat," Merrill said.

Cows this time of the year have grown a thick set of hair, which wasn't the case with the cattle that died during the October Blizzard west river. Allen believes that the cold makes his job more difficult, but it's easier for his cows than dealing with summer.

"If I had my preference the cold is probably better. Cows have a hard time getting cool when they get very hot, so it's probably a little easier on the cows but harder on the help," Merrill said.

The buildings the dairy cows stay in at the Merrill farm are useful because they block the wind while allowing sunlight in to help keep the cows warm.

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