Harsh winter weather presents challenges for ND ranchers

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MANDAN, N.D. - Massive snow drifts created by 50 mile per hour winds are forcing farmers to dig deep to manage livestock herds.

The blast of arctic air that's battering the state is piling on even more adversity, as ranchers try to manage herds of cows during some of the worst winter weather many producers have seen in years.

Tons and tons of drifted snow stands between North Dakota farmers and the livestock feed they need. Every day ranchers plow through fields of rolling white hills to get to their cows.

"We pretty much spend all morning moving the snow, and, sometimes, by the time you come through with your feed wagon to feed, it's blown shut again, and then you spend most of the afternoon feeding," says Stephanie Hatzenbuhler, Diamond J Angus Ranch.

Once a path is plowed to the hay storage area, getting the gate open to feed cows is a chore.

"It's an all-day process when it's like this, especially when the wind blows," says Stephanie.

When temperatures drop to zero and wind chills plummet to 20-below cows eat twice as much.

"We have to increase the feed every day, more pounds per animal, and hopefully this won't be sustained for too long," says John Hatzenbuhler, Diamond J Angus Ranch.

Each cow at the Diamond J Angus Ranch consumes 85 pounds of feed a day during the extreme cold.

"They seem to know how to survive. They huddle together, they keep warm, they do seem to do pretty good," says Stephanie.

Keeping equipment running in frigid conditions is also difficult, but wicked winter weather is a challenge that North Dakota farmers plow through every year.

As of today, Bismarck has received 26.5 inches of snow. About 24.1 inches fell in the Capitol City during the entire winter last year.