Blizzards and Bullshit.

by

Pardon my language.

Earlier this week a massive storm marched across half of North America. I’m not really sure when the powers that be decided to start naming winter storms but they called this one “Winter Storm Goliath” and to be honest, it seems those in charge of naming storms came up with a pretty fitting name this time around.

While here in Wisconsin the storm caused us headaches at our farm by dumping snow, then sleet and then a fine layer of ice, we dealt with everything and moved on. Goliath was barely a blip on our radar.

However, the farmers and ranchers in New Mexico, West Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle ended up with far more than a blip on their radar. Goliath pummeled the area and now early estimates are saying that up to 20,000 cows and calves are dead. Just like Winter Storm Atlas, this story isn’t making the news and most of the people in our country will never know the story behind what will one day be known as the Blizzard of 2015.

A cow buried under a snow drift in New Mexico.

A cow buried under a snow drift in New Mexico.

There already seems to be a lot of people out there blaming the farmers for losing animals in this storm. The area hardest hit is home to many large dairy farms and feed lots, what many would define as “factory farms”. Some are placing blame for the death of these cows on the size of the farm. Others have said that if these farmers cared more or worked harder they would have saved them. I’ve seen comments that these cows should have been in barns and if they were they would still be alive. The worst part is that many of these comments have come from people in agriculture. Instead of supporting their peers, they are taking pot shots at people facing incredibly heartbreaking challenges because they farms differently than they do.

I think that’s bullshit. I absolutely hate seeing people in our own industry tearing each other down.

So let’s look at the facts of this storm and some of the stories and photos direct from the people who survived it.

 

Steve Hanson owns Desert Sun Dairy in Clovis, New Mexico with his family where they milk 2,800 cows. He and his 3 sons, who work with him on their farm and a handful of employees rode out the storm on the farm. While some parts of New Mexico get snow, in Clovis a 6″ snow fall is considered a pretty heavy snow. This storm dumped far more than 6″ of snow, and reports are that it snowed upwards of 18″ but you could hardly get an accurate reading because 85mph winds were moving it fast into massive drifts.

An F1 tornado has wind speeds of 73-112mph. This blizzard had winds at tornadic speeds.

The wind dropped the temps from the 20s to -16 in Clovis.

One of Steve’s sons lives 1/2 mile from the dairy, after doing everything he could do, he headed home to rest at 1:30am. However his truck was snowed in and the roads were impassible so he called home and had his wife pull their Jeep around the house and flash the lights so he could walk the 1/2 mile in the blizzard without getting lost.

Steve’s family’s cows went without feed for 36 hours because the snow had made it impossible to mix and deliver the feed to them.

The roads around Steve’s farm were completely blocked and the milk trucks couldn’t get off the dairy. This one family alone had to dump over 250,000lbs (approximately 30,000 gallons) of milk because they simply couldn’t go anywhere with it.

Andrew Schaap and his family own North Point Dairy, also in Clovis, N.M. Andrew shared how his family got through the storm, “Both of my brothers and my dad’s trucks got stuck so I was the only one with wheels and got tasked with driving back and forth between town shuttling employees. The whole day of the blizzard we couldn’t get to the dairy because of the intensity of the storm. I felt sick to my stomach all day not being able to get to the dairy and do anything. But even if we were there it was impossible to see. My brother in law was more prepared than we were and had sleeping bags and food so the guys could sleep at the dairy and be there when it hit but they weren’t able to milk all day either. There was absolutely nothing we could do with 80 mph gusts in whiteout conditions. Moving the cows was an impossible task and each hour the alleys filled with more and more snow. 48 hours later and we’re still clearing snow out of the feed lanes. We had 100 calves in hutches and half of them were buried alive.”

Nancy Beckerink and her family have a dairy farm in Muleshoe, Texas. Before the storm came they used large bales of bedding and even their milk tankers to help block the wind. The day before the storm they bedded their calves with extra bedding and prepared as best as they could for their turn to dance with Goliath.

Despite the calves being completely engulfed in snow, Nancy reports that they only lost one baby calf in hutches, none of their slightly older calves in the group hutches and only 3 older heifers. Unfortunately the storm caused the death of 200 of their milking cows. (Learn more about calf hutches HERE)

Dutch Road Dairy, Summer 2014.

Dutch Road Dairy, Summer 2014.

Tara  Vander Dussen and her family own Rajen Dairy, also in Clovis. They milk 10,000 cows on three farms. When the storm hit Tara was stuck in the house with her baby, unable to help her family. Thankfully they kept power however, her husband’s grandmother was not so lucky. When her husband tried to go and get his grandmother to bring her to their home where she would be warm, his truck got stuck. He got out the tractor and tried to get to her in it and the tractor got stuck. He was unable to reach her as her house grew colder and colder. Thankfully she was able to stay warm until her family could reach her after the storm.

Tara posted on her facebook about the storm and got a strong enough response that she decided to start her own blog, you can follow along HERE.

Traci van der Ploeg and her family own Mid Frisian Dairy also in Clovis. At one point during the storm someone was so desperate to free their vehicle from the snow that they stole one of the dairy’s tractors, getting it stuck and damaging the tractor.

These are just four stories from the countless people that were affected by this storm. Every person I talked to lost animals. Every person I talked to had to dump their milk. Every person I talked to repeated that they did everything they could but it just wasn’t enough to protect all of their animals.

So those are the stories, now let’s look at the facts.

Why were the cows outside and not in barns?

Despite what many animal rights activists would have you believe, dairy cows don’t spend their lives locked away in barns. In the areas of the country that don’t often have inclement weather, many cows live outdoors, on dirt, in open air lots.

Instead of barns where it can be a struggle to keep cows cool in the higher temps, the cows live out in the open where strong breezes and sun shades keep them comfortable, clean and content.

Dairy heifers hanging out in their lot.

Dairy heifers hanging out in their lot.

It would be impractical to expect farmers to build barns to hold all of their animals just in case a 100 year blizzard like Goliath, came around. It would be like expecting every home in America to be built to withstand earthquakes, wild fires, floods, snow load and tornadoes even though some areas are extremely unlikely to have those natural disasters happen there.

Our cows in Wisconsin live in buildings but if we had 80+ mph winds and this kind of snow I can guarantee that cows here would be hurt or killed when barns collapsed or roofs were torn off.

As farmers, we do our best but Mother Nature is the boss.

If these cows were on small farms, they would still be alive.

This comment really ticked me off. Mother Nature doesn’t give a crap what size your farm is. If the cows on these farms had been divided up on 100 small farms in the same area it would just mean that there would be dead cows on more farms.

We milk 100 cows which is slightly below the average herd size in Wisconsin. We are a pretty small farm. Even with the paltry in comparison shot that Goliath gave us, we had a lot more work to do in a day to care for our cows. I simply can’t imagine how hard it would be for our family alone to care for our cows during a storm like this, not to mention digging out after it.

Not to mention, this area isn’t all large farms. There are many smaller herds and they lost animals too!

These farms are so big they will bounce right back, why should I care about them? 

While the farms may be ale to recover from the massive financial loss of having to dump thousands of gallons of milk, the aftershocks are yet to come.

More cows are going to die. Cows that go without feed and who are stressed get sick. While the farmers are going to do what they can to keep their girls healthy, the unavoidable fact is that some cows will not be able to recover.

The loss of milk doesn’t stop once the milk trucks can get to the farms. As a cow goes through her lactation she will have a peak where she produces the most milk and then she her body will start to slow production before she is stopped being milked in preparation for her to have her next calf. The cows who were at peak production will probably not get back to that level of milk per day after this. The cows that were slowing themselves down towards the end of their lactation may have been triggered to stop production by not being milked and they will have dramatic drops in their daily milk. A herd who averaged 80lbs of milk per cow, per day could easily drop to 60lbs after something like this. It will take time for the cows to recover.

Then there are the humans to worry about.

Can you imagine watching your life’s work being crushed under the weight of the snow? Can you imagine seeing the animals you raised and cared for dead in their pens?

Can you put yourself in the shoes of these emotionally and physically exhausted people?

This is not something someone just recovers from overnight.

Beef cattle trying to ride out the storm. Photo by Andrew Schaap.

Beef cattle trying to ride out the storm. Photo by Andrew Schaap.

My wish for those of you reading this is to understand that these people did everything that they could do. They are not at fault for Mother Nature’s fury. Please keep these men and women in your thoughts and prayers as they struggle to dig out physically and emotionally after Goliath.

102 Comments on Blizzards and Bullshit.

  1. Laurie
    December 30, 2015 at 6:53 pm (4 years ago)

    The people who complain about cows not being in barns are the same people who complain about them being in barns.

    • jan
      January 1, 2016 at 5:40 pm (4 years ago)

      They will also be the same people who will complain about the price of milk rising due to the enormous cost to recover from this. Stay strong because these short-sighted people will never be able to see beyond their egotistical bubble they live in. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to farming, no matter the struggles.

    • J PAK
      January 4, 2016 at 7:08 am (4 years ago)

      Forget the complainers. What are farmers going to do next time round ? Read the Weatheraction.com forecast of solar-lunar parameters, keep an eye on the wind patterns over at earth.nullschool.net and the f10.7 radio flux readings at one of the space-weather sites. As a farmer you may learn to predict when these extreme events are due and at least huddle up your livestock together with some extra feed for the duration of the storm.
      Hang in there cos worse is yet to come.

  2. Natalina Sents
    December 30, 2015 at 6:53 pm (4 years ago)

    “I think that’s bullshit. I absolutely hate seeing people in our own industry tearing each other down.” Well said! I couldn’t agree with you more!
    -Natalina

  3. TikkTok
    December 30, 2015 at 7:03 pm (4 years ago)

    Nevermind the roofs caving in…..

    We recently moved from Roswell after almost 20 years. We are still part of the dairy {processing} industry.

    Roswell got 24+ inches of snow. The desert is not known for its snowplows Most roads statewide were shut down. Much of the milk for the cheese plant in Roswell comes from Clovis /Portales.

    Roads are still not clear, and it’s snowing again right now. Please pray for these folks {and the cows!}- they are appreciated.

    • Vickie Rutherfurd
      January 2, 2016 at 9:48 am (4 years ago)

      I am keeping all those involved in my prayers

  4. Erin
    December 30, 2015 at 7:09 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you so much for posting this blog. People need to know what farmers and ranchers are facing right now in our state and Texas.

    • Edna Bobbitt
      January 2, 2016 at 11:57 am (4 years ago)

      Amen! People who have not been brought up on a farm or ranch have no idea. Some are way too quick to criticize something they know absolutely nothing about.

  5. R. Hackman-Indiana
    December 30, 2015 at 7:30 pm (4 years ago)

    Dairy Carrie–right on target, again!! These farmers will feel the loss for many months. My prayers are with them!

    • D. Strack
      January 1, 2016 at 3:03 pm (4 years ago)

      No one should be commenting on the storm unless they have lived thur it. We are from Wis. but spent 5 yrs in Colorado and what a mess it can suddenly become. In wis. we are prepared for storms and yet a roof can fall in and power go out.

  6. Mary
    December 31, 2015 at 1:21 pm (4 years ago)

    The people that complain need to walk a mile I the shoes of those in Goliath I pray for you every day this is not an easy life any way but you do it because you love it.

  7. Kevin Dickson. Lubbock Tx.
    December 31, 2015 at 2:04 pm (4 years ago)

    This reminds me of the 1960 Ice storm in Eastern New Mexico.
    Dad owned a 100 head dairy 5 miles north of Causey.. Lost power for over a month. The National guard would come by once a week with a Generator for a couple hours.
    We would thaw water pipes with a Forney welder & get the well pumping . Fill water jugs, get a bath and wash down the milk barn.
    Had to use the pickup’s engine vacuum to slowly milk only 2 head at a time. Started 1st milking @ 3:00 am till 3:oo pm. Then a one/ two hour lunch break / nap and start milking again till 1 or 2:ooam .
    The only vehicle we could get around in was an 8N Ford tractor.
    Then , to top it off, The Health inspector show up on a surprise inspection to an unsanitized milk barn and rejects the milk for multiple reasons.
    The inspector should have considered Dad’s stress level before he ended up pinned against the barn wall with a warning to never show his face there again. LOL
    Somehow we survived and I don’t recall losing any cows , but Dad lost over a years megar income in the one month long disaster due to extra feeding cost & cows going dry ,etc.. Most miserable time of our life on the farm beyond a doubt.

    • gretchen maine
      December 31, 2015 at 6:53 pm (4 years ago)

      We are semi-retired dairy farmers in waterville, ny. You can’t imagine how hard we laughed over your stressed dad and the milk inspector! Sounds like something that would have happened here!

      • Dan
        January 1, 2016 at 4:54 pm (4 years ago)

        Leave it to the inspector to come and make matters worse, rather than helping the situation. Typical of Government.

      • Dan
        January 1, 2016 at 5:24 pm (4 years ago)

        Farming is so hard, there is very little you can do when mother nature comes at you like this. We all need to be supportive of these people in their time of need. If we live so far away we can’t go and physically help, the least we can do is not be critical of them

  8. Nancy Taylor
    December 31, 2015 at 2:13 pm (4 years ago)

    I think most people don;t know what these farmers go through to save their livestock. Big or small. You cannot predict such weather. We got the same haters when it happened in South Dakota. Most the Ranchers would give their right arm not to lose any life.

  9. Stephanie Bushman
    December 31, 2015 at 2:20 pm (4 years ago)

    Farmers and Ranchers, Love what they do. Thank God for them. They are strong and resilient. Its sad that there are people who dont understand and make judgements. The Old saying ” To Wear another mans shoes.” can go along way here.

  10. Reg Quist
    December 31, 2015 at 3:40 pm (4 years ago)

    I grew up in Alberta where harsh winters are a given. Unless a person has lived through those challenges there is no way to make them understand. In my novel Hamilton Robb, I tried to describe the famous ‘Children’s Blizzard’ of 1888. As extreme as some of the writing in the novel is, I knew the reality was far worse. Some times there just ae no words.

  11. Norm and Marge Nelson
    December 31, 2015 at 4:06 pm (4 years ago)

    We live in NW PA and I can’t imagine a storm like that! So sorry for you all!

  12. gretchen maine
    December 31, 2015 at 7:09 pm (4 years ago)

    Dear Carrie,
    Thank you for what you do. People who aren’t farmers just don’t get it. It breaks my heart to see that so many animals were lost in the storm and the idiot remarks made about the farmers who had to go through it. Our biggest storm in central ny was probably the blizzard of “66 when milk still went in milk cans and we didn’t see a plow for several days. I just can’t imagine what those farmers went through with “Goliath”.

    • nohorseslaughter ortiz
      May 28, 2016 at 10:02 am (4 years ago)

      I went through that one. Dad shoveled steps up to the top of the snow so us neighborhood kids could walk to Hempstead Tpke to get basic groceries for all the neighbors. Snow was about 4-5′ high & solid as a rock

  13. Leslie
    December 31, 2015 at 8:00 pm (4 years ago)

    I agree with you 100%!! Shouldn’t matter if you grow grain, orchards, or livestock, you are a part of agriculture and should be united and support each other. There is enough crap being spread from people who have no clue about the industry without tearing each other apart for what you should or shouldn’t do.

  14. Charlie Strawn
    December 31, 2015 at 10:24 pm (4 years ago)

    If some one can read this and not either rethink their ideas about who is to blame or have some compassion, they are what I refer to as fact free non thinkers. I pity their misinformed view of the world. Those who have lived this life and know, already realize it is a time for support and prayer. America should thank God for farmers, ranchers and dairymen three times a day when they say grace at each meal.

  15. Stan
    January 1, 2016 at 2:51 am (4 years ago)

    We drove through the area on Monday the 28th right after the blizzard. I have never seen so much snow piled up. I also have never seen so many cars, semi’s and anything else abandoned along the roads or even on the road itself. Any farmer with any kind of tractor or anything else were trying to move snow. in towns businesses were closed, as well as stores, restaurants, because employees could not get to work as the side roads were not dug out yet. Meanwhile stranded travelers could not find anywhere to stay as the motels were filled, but no one could get anything to eat because everything was closed. I can only imagine what the dairy’s were going through.

  16. Lisa Halbert
    January 1, 2016 at 7:21 am (4 years ago)

    I’m so glad you posted this Carrie. It is a very challenging and horrific act of Nature & she wouldn’t have shown any mercy on the “free” wildlife either. While people focus and like to blame the cattle losses on “big farms”, these storms kill EVERYTHING in their path. The dairies are doing their best to care for and save their animals. I’m across the lake from you & our dairy and others have used the big square bales like they did in NM to block wind in the winter, like the past 2 years with horrific windchills from the SOUTH. Having barns and hutches face south is supposed to allow sun in (when Michigan has sun in the winter ; o) and block NW, and primarily prevailing West wind. Nope we got -50 F from the south. I call these events ” desperate times, desperate measures”. We may learn some of helped saved animals (either preparation, during or afterwards….and it will be LONG AFTERWARDS-just imaging frozen teats, mastitis risk, eventually all thay snow melting, deep mud on already tired cows and people, aborted calves), improved infrastructure (electric lines -are they above ground or buried? We have buried ours after numerous outages), It is really hard telling how unusual or “common” these bizarre these extreme weather events are or if they may become patterns we dairy farmers will be stuck dealing with if/when further climate change is upon us. Having “average”/normal seasons seem to have gone out the window in Michigan at least & I can’t imagine 180 countries (or whatever the #) got together in France if there were not global concern.

    • Gloria James
      January 7, 2016 at 5:49 pm (4 years ago)

      We were in the cattle business in this area for over 30 years. Climate change? No. Bad storms such as Goliath happened several times. Only there were not many dairies in the area years ago. My grandparents were large dairy farmers from Germany. They settled in Southern Arizona. Having livestock in the panhandle region in the winter is cruel.

      • Miss Mac in TX
        January 7, 2016 at 7:08 pm (4 years ago)

        Yeah, bullshit. Wisconsin has plenty of cows and damn cold winters, too. I grew up in Iowa, surrounded by cattle, swine, and dairy farmers…family farmers! I drank RAW MILK right out of the DeLava storage tanks. It was glorious!!!
        There is nothing “cruel ” about raising cattle on the Texas high plains. Lots of grass, lots of room to roam.
        This was a FREAK STORM!!! Snownado. I now live in Dallas area. We are cleaning up from the 12 tornadoes that took out over 350 homes as total losses. Guess what? Same storm!!!

        • D. Strack
          January 7, 2016 at 7:31 pm (4 years ago)

          Thanks. Some days bullshit just fits like no other word! Like translating something from German, not always a word to fit.
          Sorry for your loses, can’t remember when the country had so much damage at the same time. Think the Lord is trying to get our attention!

  17. marc
    January 1, 2016 at 7:23 am (4 years ago)

    The naming of Winter storms is all to do with the climate change agenda,not to belittle Goliath but by naming them it gives the impression that ordinary Winter weather is not ordinary winter weather anymore.

    • Steve
      January 6, 2016 at 10:47 am (4 years ago)

      No, only the Weather Channel names winter storms. The NWS and the government have nothing to do with it.

  18. Susan
    January 1, 2016 at 7:56 am (4 years ago)

    A good post … people who don’t know farming are quick to judge and yak it up from gut reactions … the story is always more complex when one investigates all sides of an issue/event. Thanks for your thoughtful approach here …

  19. Taryn
    January 1, 2016 at 8:08 am (4 years ago)

    Wonderful stories! I am not in the farm or dairy business but live in the area you are talking about. Another big issue around Lubbock is loose herds. With all the wind and power outages a lot of cows got out. There were even cows loose on the loop and in residential yards. Farmers are still a week later trying to round up cows.

  20. hank good
    January 1, 2016 at 8:12 am (4 years ago)

    No one works harder then a farmer. GOD BLESS EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU. There will allways be those that think making others look bad some how makes them look good. As for the other critics , I can only say where were they during the blizzard ??.

  21. judy rauser snellman
    January 1, 2016 at 8:50 am (4 years ago)

    to all stock owners and workers, my heart goes out to each and everyone of you. it is horrible to have to worry about the livestock when you can do nothing about it. people have no idea the extra work involved when the weather turns to shit. they also have no idea that this is someones whole way of life. it is very devasting. thanks for posting. good luck

  22. jill
    January 1, 2016 at 10:13 am (4 years ago)

    We know farmers work dawn to dusk and i appreciate the effort. Sometimes nature at its worst just can’t be handled. I am sorry about the lose of livestock and wish all the best. I also know that as a farmer you will not give up.bless you all and good luck

  23. Kim sokolic
    January 1, 2016 at 11:21 am (4 years ago)

    People need to live a day in the farmers shoes then they would understand how devastating this storm was I pray for all the families to recover from this massive storm

  24. Chris Whidden
    January 1, 2016 at 1:52 pm (4 years ago)

    Your painful story has reached even us Canadian farmers in the eastern Maritimes. I feel sick from reading it. That feeling is familiar to us in the Maritimes as the winter of 2015 stands out with record snowfalls, power outages, barn roofs collapsing, heart attacks from constant struggling with clearing snow, such extreme difficulty getting feed and fodder to animals, losses from dumped milk and – exactly as you describe it- lost production from all the stress. Our winter from hell started mid January and lasted until April and even later for some areas. I could go on, but I only want you to know we can relate to your feelings of pain and being overwhelmed by a killer storm that shouldn’t have happened in your part of the world in the first place. All bets are off now, where it concerns the weather. Maybe you will never have such a storm again for 100 years; I’m afraid you will, just as I’m afraid we will have another miserable winter. Good luck to you and all farmers dealing with this weather bomb; I will watch for your blog for updates.
    -Chris Whidden, Stewiacke, Nova Scotia.

  25. Merrilee Thomas
    January 1, 2016 at 2:22 pm (4 years ago)

    Anyone who has owned cattle, whether 1000-2000 or just a few like we do 160 head knows how devastating a winter storm can be. We had an ice storm several years back that shut down our electricity for 2 weeks and it was near impossible to get to the fields with hay wagons and flatbed pickups. When we made it none of the water tanks worked and we had to try to move cattle to places where there were ponds where we could break ice so they could drink. The cows didn’t want to go because they could barely stand up on the ice. Those you had newborn calves just abandoned them in trying to keep themselves alive. We lost several calves and a few cows. Losing cattle for a farmer of dairy man is very painful because you are always concerned about them and their well being. Never mind the financial loss which can be huge and take many years to recover from. We have also had cattle during blizzards and below 0 temperatures and many calves get trampled as the cattle try to huddle together to stay alive. A farmer or dairyman is always conscience about their animals and try their best to keep them safe and fed. My heart goes out to these people in N.M. Texas and Ok. May God be with them and help them recuperate their losses. There is no need to critizise them. You should have to talk in their shoes and see the truth with your own eyes. Then maybe you would have some compassion.

  26. Sandy
    January 1, 2016 at 3:09 pm (4 years ago)

    The next time you feel like bitching and complaining and about how bad we have it in Phoenix…. Take a minute and read this article about the dairies in West Texas…. We truly have no idea how rough it is for these Dairyman and their families!!! God bless our dairies❤❤❤❤

  27. Zama
    January 1, 2016 at 8:40 pm (4 years ago)

    Wonderfull recounting of the massive task and results of severe weather. I feel great anger that it is NOT COVERED IN OUR NEWS.
    One can only surmise WHY: “they” do not want our people to be aware of and think in time to regain our autonomy.

    • D. Strack
      January 1, 2016 at 8:54 pm (4 years ago)

      Nothing on the news here that I noticed but there was no time as the reporting time was filled with coverage of riots, same old who shot who and who was or was not responsible. Important too but once would do.

  28. Sue Robinson
    January 1, 2016 at 8:48 pm (4 years ago)

    You have every right to feel disgusted and I am right behind you! Still, I can’t help but hope that those criticisms come from an uninitiated but loud minority that will gain an education from your explicit post. Just maybe. My parents came from ranches and farms in Colorado to Alaska in 1946 to homestead. Over the years they had a small dairy, logged for their cabin with a team of horses, lived without roads, electricity, phones, dug their first well by hand, built a big log stacker to put up hay, raised beef and 5 kids, and put in the work to build a landmark beautiful place and a very successful construction business. We’ve dealt with a lot of tough situations but none on the magnitude of what you’re describing. Just enough that I can feel the desperation of those farmers and compassion for their critters. Our population gravitates more & more to urban places, jobs, & attitudes and they just don’t share the same experiences. Many of us still understand tho!

  29. John Amey
    January 1, 2016 at 9:09 pm (4 years ago)

    I have milked cows for 52 years and even though I have been spared from any such storms as have recently occurred in the southwest and other places , I often think of how ill prepared we are , financially and otherwise should a similar disaster ever come our way. I applaud Carrie for her blog and for all the farmers who have commented.
    We must remember that we are all in this together and no dairy farmer intentionally designs a facility that will cost the lives of their cattle. We are stronger if we work together and help each other.

  30. John Wayne
    January 1, 2016 at 11:08 pm (4 years ago)

    Great story and it illustrates the
    non-farmer environmental uninformed views about many issues. EPA for the most part employs many people who are trying to justify their jobs and their salaries by issuing regulation after regulation.

  31. Wes Young
    January 1, 2016 at 11:25 pm (4 years ago)

    My Brother-in-law and his wife help run a feed lot near Muleshoe. I know they did everything they could to get to their cattle. They lost 30 total. They worked day and night during and after the storm to get things up and going. They are exhausted and to have others complaining. Be kind, support your fellow farmers and ranchers. This affects all of us. God bless you all in all you do.

  32. David Small
    January 2, 2016 at 12:16 am (4 years ago)

    Great story. I went to college in Lubbock, and know the area. So few people understand how food is produced this kind of article is more important than I ever believed.

  33. Sheila jones
    January 2, 2016 at 1:29 am (4 years ago)

    Do not criticize thy neighbor until you have walked a mile in their shoes…..
    People that bitch about cows being neglected don’t know a damn thing about what it takes to run a farm or dairy, and I’m a city girl!

    • Dee
      January 2, 2016 at 8:26 am (4 years ago)

      You are so right. This is the stuff that America needs to see on the news instead of what movie star is ~~~~~~~~~, this is their food/leather and a few more things and there are only a few (percentage wise) doing all this and at the mercy of gov’t rules and the weather!

  34. Deana
    January 2, 2016 at 8:59 am (4 years ago)

    There are lot of people out there quick to judge without knowing what processes are involved. May God heal your worries and take care of you all! Know that you did everything you could possibly do with what Mother Nature gave you. Those complaining will know karma when it is time. Hugs and prayers for quick recoveries.

  35. Jean Estrada
    January 2, 2016 at 10:29 am (4 years ago)

    May God bless our farmers, dairymen and women, stockmen and women. Thanks.

  36. Laurie LaGrone
    January 2, 2016 at 12:30 pm (4 years ago)

    Excellent article with devastating photos. I thank you for taking the time and care to educate the rest of us. I have shared this on Facebook.

    I live in a dairy community and grew up on the family dairy, 400-cow milking herd. We faced challenges unique to California but NOTHING like what you describe. I can’t stop thinking about the surviving herds – those who lived probably dried up and that just adds to the losses for these poor dairymen. My heart goes out to them and I hope the weather eases up on them, and the government gives them a hand up and out of this dire situation. I won’t hold my breath for either, however.

  37. Janet
    January 2, 2016 at 2:30 pm (4 years ago)

    I’m so sorry for your loss and the loses of all farm’s and dairy’s in our area that were affected by this storm. Don’t pay attention to the people that don’t understand your industry. They don’t realize what hard work and dedication goes into the dairy, ranching our farming industries. Keep up the good work you do to keep the rest of us fed. Thank you from one city dweller that grew up in a farm!!!

  38. Sarah Jones
    January 2, 2016 at 7:02 pm (4 years ago)

    I am reading this from New Zealand and while we have difficulty with Save Animals From Exploitation charity group harassing our farmers to the point of their followers threatening our farmers with abuse (and threatening that of children, or anyone in gumboots) and telling them to top ourselves, we simply cannot compare with this. We hope this doesn’t happen again and that all can recover (to some extent) relatively quickly from this.

  39. Betty Callahan Norman
    January 2, 2016 at 8:10 pm (4 years ago)

    Farmers do everything they can to protect their animals! That’s their livelihood. Bad weather happens. That’s farming! But they go on!
    I grow up on a farm. Thanks for all your hard work !

  40. Kenneth Bracelin
    January 2, 2016 at 9:28 pm (4 years ago)

    This story needs to get out, not only the Dairies, but all the other cattlemen and ranchers! They have terrible losses with this storm! I pray that you all get help for your losses!

  41. happytailsrescue
    January 2, 2016 at 11:02 pm (4 years ago)

    Living in South/Central Washington state with horses, goats, chickens and a Rottweiler Rescue Sanctuary, am sure you could easily identify that there is the “city” mentality and some of their unrealistic expectations and then the rural folk who do the hard outdoor work irrespective of the conditions…we just do it. City slickers believe every shred of manure should be mucked off of a 20 acre pasture with 3 horses or find it gross that chickens are the best landscapers following behind the other animals, or why don’t they have blankets on them, instead of thick coats and the list goes on and on…,.

    When extreme conditions hit, there isn’t a pause button while a variety of plans are considered or a rewind to change the conditions of the best decision made at the time. 3 days ago I chose to bail out of our 6,000 lb Suburban as it slid out of control down out steep, curvy, ice rink drive way. I would make the same decision again. The driver had no control but the tires stayed in the grooves and was a more of less controlled slide down, while I opened the door, checked the skid direction and chose to jump for the snow, rather than ice and surprised myself by landing on my feet…and our conditions were no comparison to yours…

    Everyone in those geo engineered conditions made the best deceison at the time considering themselves and livestock…Tell tongue waggers to take a hike!

  42. emsnews
    January 3, 2016 at 9:03 am (4 years ago)

    I live on a mountain in upstate NY and used to farm it but due to husband’s severe disability, we ended our farming. One thing about here: we have to always prepare for winter blizzards since they are fairly frequent.

    This means we own chains to put on the tractors, the trucks, everything. We have two snow plows and a snow blower. We have reinforced roofs and outbuildings.

    I grew up on a ranch in Tucson, AZ. We had rare snow storms that melted fast. No chains on tires, no snow machines, nothing. Our animals used sheds for shelter mainly from the sun. Any snow storm that hits Tucson, even small ones, paralyzes the place. Here in NY, we barely notice them unless they are major, major blizzards.

    Many years ago, we had a very severe blizzards with winds over 90 mph and had to move the sheep into the house and the windows facing the blizzard nearly blew out and we boarded them up during the storm as the glass was flexing out of the frames! It was terrifying and the snow drifts took some of the snow over the roof.

  43. tom hildebrannd
    January 3, 2016 at 9:21 am (4 years ago)

    FARMING!!! the ONLY business in the united states where you are NOT allowed to set prices for what you produce

    • Ian Storey.
      January 3, 2016 at 11:11 am (4 years ago)

      Same in the UK.

  44. Tammi Littrel
    January 3, 2016 at 9:36 am (4 years ago)

    Thank you for posting this information. As a witness to Atlas I can tell you what we saw and dealt with is exactly what folks are going through now. I have had lots of time and sleepless nights to think about it and would like to offer a few thoughts. Initially it is bad enough to deal with how to get to the survivors, get feed to them and working around the clock against time without negative comments and blogs from people who have no clue. When you don’t hear anything reported about the storm you wonder why no one cares or if ag producers are that insignificant that something this huge and tragic doesn’t make the news. Then you start to hear negative comments and blogs, some that come from folks in your hometown and you get angry. That I will never forget. In our town they actually wanted to call in the National Guard to pick up limbs in their yards while not one mile outside of town tens of thousand of cattle died. They were whining that the town looked like a war zone due to the storm and all the downed trees. I posted they should see the battle field in the countryside with the dead and dying. That was not appreciated I can tell you as finding someone to clean up their downed tree branches was the most important thing to them. I knew then what I had always suspected Ag took a back seat to whatever was going on with the city folk.

    I was contacted by a reporter from an eastern NE newspaper about why the cattle weren’t in their barns when the storm hit. I told her apparently you do not grasp the scope of our ranches or operations( not to mention we didn’t have barns big enough to hold all these cattle and calves). One neighbor who had fall calvers tried to save a group of cows in a barn and lost some due to suffocation. But to this reporter’s credit, she wanted to understand and report from the producer’s perspective. She asked for photos and I sent her some very benign (if there is such a thing) ones which her editor rejected as they would upset their readers. It was then that she began to understand what we were dealing with.

    On our place there are two big cattle burial grounds still not grassed over. We had over 400 head of neighbor’s cows drift in from as far away as 20 miles and die on about 10 sections of land. Finding those cows and having to call their owners was heart wrenching. One owner was an elderly neighbor and I remember telling his daughter,” Don’t let your Dad come up here, its bad”. I just could not stop crying and cried for days at every new discovery of more dead cows but after awhile there were no tears left to cry but the deep soul twisting feeling of loss became a constant companion.

    The days spent sorting storm bruised cattle and orphaned calves and moving them back to where they belonged was hell. Finding dead cows in fences and draws and creek beds seven months after the storm, a vivid reminder of how powerful and destructive mother nature can be. Living through this changes forever how you react to any mention of snow in the forecast.

    Please know that producers who have been through this understand what you are going through and how you are suffering. We are so very sorry for your losses. Our thoughts and prayers are with you now and as you deal with the repercussions of this storm in the future.

  45. jan
    January 3, 2016 at 8:24 pm (4 years ago)

    Sad and I understand more. Thank you for clarifying. My heart aches for their loss. Pain is unfathomable.jnen

  46. Denton Baker
    January 3, 2016 at 9:37 pm (4 years ago)

    How do we get the message out to the people not reading this blog. Dairy farms are having a tough time and are some of the hardest working people I know.

    • D. Strack
      January 3, 2016 at 11:25 pm (4 years ago)

      Sorry to say but if you shoot someone black, you will get air time. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t get air time but that is what is getting the attention. Never mind that the people that make our food and shoe/purse leather are in great need of help and prayers.

  47. Nesikep
    January 4, 2016 at 12:17 am (4 years ago)

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease… While the farmers are out *DOING* something about what’s going on, the armchair critics are complaining about branches in their yard, etc. The farmers are too busy doing something about what’s going on to defend themselves from these ignorant idiots with whacky agendas.

    I have a small herd of beef cows, and they’re pretty rugged and can handle some pretty harsh weather.. but one year we got freezing rain on top of a heavy snow, we lost 2 greenhouses, nearly lost the shop and hay shed, and the cows were stuck in the field, unable to move on the snow/ice.. And that was very mild compared to what Goliath brought.

    I wish all the farmers strength in these hard times

  48. Chris Jensen
    January 4, 2016 at 1:26 am (4 years ago)

    Thank you for writing this. I am not in agriculture, I do IT consulting. I wanted to understand why the losses were so high, and found your article while doing research. You did a great job at explaining this tragedy. It truly is a tragedy, and you guys are definitely in our thoughts and prayers. And I agree, at times like this it is counter productive to blame the people and businesses that have suffered so much.

  49. Jack
    January 4, 2016 at 8:05 am (4 years ago)

    Why isn’t this on the front page of every news outlet?

  50. Francie
    January 4, 2016 at 11:07 am (4 years ago)

    You would think the ranchers who lost livestock in ‘Storm Atlas” in October 2013 would be the first to step up to help – since so many came to their rescue. What are those folks doing to help?

  51. Frank
    January 5, 2016 at 12:09 pm (4 years ago)

    Most people don’t understand cattle. They bunch up when the weather gets bad. Doesn’t matter the breed. You can feed them and block the wind but their first instinct is to bunch up. When they bunch up for a long period of time disaster occurs. Weather your a dairyman or cattleman your in for trouble when the wind and snow blows!

  52. Jennifer
    January 5, 2016 at 9:28 pm (4 years ago)

    Cows should have shelter. Period. Farmers only care about making $ instead of the welfare of the animals. Farmers are completely at fault. Why don’t they stand outside in the snow if it’s not a big deal.

    • dairycarrie
      January 5, 2016 at 9:30 pm (4 years ago)

      I think you really missed a lot of the information in this post. You should try reading it again.

      • Jennifer
        January 5, 2016 at 9:34 pm (4 years ago)

        I already read it. If it means investing in shelter that would withstand weather, that would make sense. The amount of money would be worth it in the end. But again, farmers look at them as animals and nothing more.

        • dairycarrie
          January 5, 2016 at 9:35 pm (4 years ago)

          Do you live in a home that can withstand a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, flood and blizzard?

        • Charles Sublette
          January 11, 2016 at 10:22 am (4 years ago)

          What do you know about their disposable income? How do you know the “amount of money would be worth it in the end”?

          The idea that these folk only care about $ rather than animal welfare is ludicrous… since their animals make their $ possible…

          A silly notion a business should bankrupt them self so to make folk like you to simply “feel good”…

          …everything is not as black and white as you make it out to be…

          …Show some heart and understanding for these folk…

    • D. Strack
      January 5, 2016 at 9:35 pm (4 years ago)

      If you have a coat like a cow that has been out on the range you would be happy to be outside. They would get too warm inside a barn. Where I am, they are inside and never on the range and then you take a chance of the roof falling in. Extreme weather is just that. If all could be controlled, there would be no houses floating down the rivers and people dying.

  53. Jennifer
    January 5, 2016 at 9:47 pm (4 years ago)

    You need to prepare and have a home that withstands that area. Where I am located, yes I would be prepared. Especially if I was caring for such a large amount of animals, I would 100% have shelter. If they prefer to be outside, that’s fine. It is at least provided. There are ways to provide sufficient housing where roofs wouldn’t fall in.

    • dairycarrie
      January 5, 2016 at 9:52 pm (4 years ago)

      That area doesn’t get weather like this. This is classified as a 100 year storm.

      • Gloria James
        January 7, 2016 at 7:47 pm (4 years ago)

        I have penned cattle in Clovis, NM when the chill factor was 40 below zero. An April, 1956 blizzard killed 10,000 head of mother cows in Union County, NM alone. In the late 1800’s an entire train of sheep perished in the snow near Texline, TX. They just buried the train along the tracks. Blizzards always have and always will happen in this area. Study your history.
        Then decide if you want livestock there in the winter. I learned the hard way.

        • Charles Sublette
          January 11, 2016 at 10:33 am (4 years ago)

          There are risks everywhere you go…Disposable income dictates you can have 100% safety by prevention… sometimes… You just have to survive the worst and hope you have a good enough retained earnings to continue the livelihood…

          I wonder if you would apply the same standard to those whom died and suffered during hurricane Sandy and Katrina.

          … easier said than done to say they “should have never been there” or “they should have spent the money to do more”…

        • Charles Sublette
          January 11, 2016 at 10:36 am (4 years ago)

          Also…

          Disposable income dictates you can NOT have 100% (or even 90%) safety by prevention…

  54. Steve
    January 6, 2016 at 10:37 am (4 years ago)

    “The powers” did not start naming winter storms. This is an invention of the Weather Channel, and has no support from the National Weather Service.

  55. Jennifer
    January 6, 2016 at 1:50 pm (4 years ago)

    Even if this is not typical weather for those areas, what about when it rains, hails, is windy..also those weather conditions? Why shouldn’t shelter be available? It doesn’t make sense.

    • dairycarrie
      January 6, 2016 at 4:36 pm (4 years ago)

      You think cows should be inside when it rains and is windy?

      • Gloria James
        January 7, 2016 at 8:29 pm (4 years ago)

        My grandparents came to this country from Germany and operated a large dairy in Phoenix, Arizona. Even in Arizona they provided huge barns so their cows could get out of cold rains, and especially the mud. If we are going to confine them in a pen, we should provide some protection from the elements. They can’t just go out and get under a cliff or find some high ground as animals do in the wild. I have seen animals laying on top of dead animals in the pens in order to get out of the mud. And yes I do know they might smother in a shed in a blizzard, but strategic placing of snow fencing can help. It is up to each farmer or cattleman to decide if it is worth it.

      • TikkTok
        January 9, 2016 at 9:11 am (4 years ago)

        That comment is particularly funny to me. We always say Roswell has two season- windy, and hot and windy. Nevermind the haboobs. Or the periodic tornado. And this in an area where NO ONE has basements because it’s over bedrock. I suppose during the high heat {usually 100+ from May-September} they need to have AC? People need to get a clue…..

        And while I’m at it, they aren’t set up for huge amounts of rain, either…..

        • Gloria James
          January 10, 2016 at 4:45 pm (4 years ago)

          A blizzard at Roswell during the late 40’s piled snow 2 stories high. Since that time there have been many deadly snow storms in the area. People just need to study the history of any area
          and be aware of and prepare for what can happen. The cost of protecting livestock from severe
          elements might be worth it when one compares it to death loss, loss of gain, milk loss, and disease that result from weather such as this. And I’m not even mentioning the suffering.

        • Charles Sublette
          January 11, 2016 at 10:45 am (4 years ago)

          Gloria, what do you know of their disposable income to suggest the “costs might be worth it”?

          That’s right… these diary families are simply getting rich…. so they simply do not care about improving risk mitigation to ensure they can continue to their livelihood… if only these rich diary families simply spent the money to prepare for these bad storms… I wish these diary families were simply getting rich by not do this… which couldn’t be further from the truth…

  56. Danny Taggert
    January 6, 2016 at 6:47 pm (4 years ago)

    Is your vocabulary really so limited as to require vulgar words in title? Get some class and overcome your tasteless choice of terms.

    • dairycarrie
      January 6, 2016 at 7:58 pm (4 years ago)

      There are many words that I could have used, however bullshit was the word that fit the sentiment I was going for the best.
      Are you really so prude that you can’t handle keeping your thoughts to yourself when you don’t like someone’s choice of words and you must try to insult them?

      • Danny Taggert
        January 6, 2016 at 9:18 pm (4 years ago)

        If raising my kids in a culture of decency is something you deny me, who is being prude?Most of us genuine farm people admire a certain degree of dignity and respect from our peers.

        • Danny Taggert
          January 6, 2016 at 9:36 pm (4 years ago)

          And if your language is so acceptable, why do you yourself beg for a pardon on the very next line? Please clean it up. We are all better than that.

        • dairycarrie
          January 6, 2016 at 10:41 pm (4 years ago)

          Clearly Danny this isn’t the blog for your delicate sensabilities.

  57. dirk
    January 6, 2016 at 6:48 pm (4 years ago)

    this is a nightmare for all involved but with global warming kicking into high gear the now outdated idea of once in a 100yr storms needs to be laid to rest and people need to farm in the weather as we have made it.

  58. Sue
    January 7, 2016 at 10:10 am (4 years ago)

    That was a disaster for all. People in cities will never understand the devastation, nor the suffering both to the cattle & the people who spend their lives caring for them. My prayers for all.

  59. Reina Kerr
    January 8, 2016 at 9:46 pm (4 years ago)

    As a grower of humanely raised grass fed beef in the state of Tennessee, we send our sincere condolences to all of our brother and sister farmers, who feed the entire US, with their day in and day out perseverance in performing their duties. We had tornadoes and severe flooding in our state this Christmas. There is no protection great enough from the extreme forces of nature..and us country folk, know this. We appreciate the people from the city who think of our stock as they do of their “pets” but if we were to quit producing the cream for their coffee, the steaks for their BBQ’s. and the leather for shoes, belts, and purses…what would they say then? It’s a hard life for farmers, for they love their stock, they try harder than words can express, to care for and secure their cattle. No one and no building, can stand up to a tornado. God bless you and keep up the good work !

  60. dairydecider
    January 9, 2016 at 8:34 pm (4 years ago)

    I am a dairy farmer and very much appreciate the outreach and effort you make on your site to bridge the growing gap we face every day between producers and consumers. In our increasingly transparent and social-media world it is inevitable for a variety of view-points to surface, some of them which you may take issue with. I think a little soul searching is a healthy activity from time to time, as long as you keep an open mind. This storm and the consequences are tragic and still not known its full magnitude as the dairies are still literally digging out. I wish all of the staff, farmers, and industry folks the best as they have a lot of hard and emotional work ahead of them.

    I used to work for dairies in that area and witnessed the transformation of the industry from the mid 90’s when the big milk processing plants began locating there for a source of cheap milk to fill their plants with. One of the reasons for cheap milk is, as you say, the cows mostly did not require expensive barns ‘most’ of the time. Over time this evolved as standard practice as feed lot dairies took 60-75% less capital than their full freestall barn counterparts, which are a general feature in most all of the other regions of the US regardless of weather, earthquake, flood, wind, tornado conditions. In other words, the milk processors expanded there because they could get away with the lack of housing most of the time and dairies could build/expand cheaper. For the bad weather that came around every few years, the losses were called the ‘cost of doing business’ and you moved on. But this was obviously a bad storm and some may not be able to move on.

    Perhaps the industry was on borrowed time. When we build we assess storm strength, snow load (even though a snow event is not normal), 50 year flood levels, etc. It is part of the risk assessment you make and the responsibility you take when you care for animals and run a business. Lenders require you to mitigate certain risks, insure many of the others. I don’t blame the producers or staff. However, I do question the motives of the processors in the area that does not even pay enough to shelter these animals for the winter. The irony now is their plants will run less than full for the foreseeable future (undermining the plant’s profitability) and there will be much hand-wringing in the lending community in search of a way forward. I expect after this storm that new construction projects without more robust shelters/barns will have difficulty getting financed. I am hearing that there are some total losses, and that completely changes the banking world going forward.

    I’m sorry if these facts are ‘bullshit’ to use your nomenclature but they are the facts on the ground. Maybe it is too soon to discuss, but in today’s instant media it is hard to keep up. Cheers and good work on your poignant blog!

    • Charles Sublette
      January 11, 2016 at 10:58 am (4 years ago)

      Finally, someone who gets it…

      Disposable income and business equity dictates what can be done.. including what can NOT be done for risk mitigation…

      …Of course, there are simply poor operators that make one too many bad decisions leading to the ruination of their outfit, but the majority of them in this area are not like that since the poor operators are forced to leave prior to bad events like this…

      You are absolutely correct about risk mitigation financing difficulties due to this storm hitting…

      …will take a while until confidence by financial institutions is garnered to help these folk…

  61. Charles Sublette
    January 11, 2016 at 11:23 am (4 years ago)

    The “better safe than sorry” crowd suggesting these folk “don’t really care about their animals” and “they could have done more” portrays to me these critics are motivated by “feelings” rather than business acumen.

    Reminds me of how critics, the environmentalists, and politician abused farmers during the Dust Bowl by stating, “these farmers are unwanted WEEDs in an area that should have never been farmed and should be treated as such.” My grandfather essentially told them where to go and he moved to this area to START his family lineage farming, which in later in the years by historians was deemed to be the epic center of the dust bowl. I am still here today, 3rd generation, thanks to the efforts of folk wanting to educate others, such as Howard Finnell, and government, thanks to President Roosevelt, financially helping out with retooling where it reasonably could be applied…

    There is definitely more education needs to be done for dairy farmers… Temporary, snow fences could have prevented some of the snow drifts, but the fences definitely are not a “sure thing”… not exactly cheap either considering the number of acres that would be needed… After considering their disposable income, not exactly a “black and white” decision to decide whether to build a few $100,000 sturdy barn to withstand 80mph wind with blowing snow to protect their cattle…

    As the old saying goes…. “..either it is Feast or Famine…” …applies also to dairy farmers… unless folk want to start paying a significant premium for their milk…

    I just hope the operators in this area stashed away enough cash to survive this…

    My prayers are with the unfortunate operators hit hard by this storm. Godspeed.

  62. Charles Sublette
    January 11, 2016 at 11:26 am (4 years ago)

    Forgot to say…

    Excellent article Dairycarrie..

    A shame on our news outfits this is not significantly reported… sadly, my guess is the “death toll” is not high enough to matter much to the “feelings” driven news networks…

    Dairycarrie, I very much appreciate your time in writing this!!

  63. rebeccatreeseed
    January 16, 2016 at 6:31 pm (4 years ago)

    I had snowdrifts up to my waist trying to get to my chicken coop. I can’t imagine a herd of cattle. I couldn’t get out for 2 weeks, 30 inches from Goliath then 5 days of snow the next week.