Snow, freezing temps cause problems for area ranchers

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MANDAN, N.D. - The snow has forced many to work overtime, from plow drivers to people just trying to get their cars on the road. But it's also caused major issues for the area's ranchers.

Ranchers are often dependent on Mother Nature to cooperate, and when she doesn't, it can cost them big money.

On a normal December day, cows in Morton County are able to graze and feed themselves in the field. With this week's snowstorm expected to blanket the ground for a long time, that's not an option this year.

"With this much snow, you've got to get some feed to them and unfortunately, we're going to have to start feeding more than we ever planned," says Richard Tokach, Tokach Angus Ranch.

Tokach normally doesn't have to start feeding his cows until the middle of January, but with 18 inches or more of snow on the ground, he's going to have to start now, which costs about $1,000 a day and means an extra $30-50,000 per year.

"When we get, this next week they're talking below-zero temperatures, the cows need to eat a lot more in order to maintain themselves, when we get cold weather," says Jackie Buckley, Morton County Extension Agent.

The wet snow combined with the extremely cold weather means the cows have to be close to home and food.

"Cows can't dig through that much ice to get to feed, and you've got to feed them. That's just the way it is. So yeah, it's going to make a huge impact and, of course, cattle eat more when it get's colder," says Tokach.

If temperatures warm up, Tokach says he'll be able to get the cows back out to winter pastures, but he doesn't expect that to happen any time soon.

Tokach also worries about bringing cows home to feed, because he says they get lazy. They get more exercise out in the open pasture, which helps them stay healthy.