Winter storm poses danger for cattle across North Dakota

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OLIVER COUNTY, N.D. - Crops aren't the only commodity weathering out in the storm. Ranchers were in scramble mode Monday and Tuesday to shore up shelter for cattle ahead of the snow.

A simple call of “come on girls!” gets the attention of Mikael Schmidt's cows. As they wait out the storm, he's already anticipating issues down the road.

"There's definitely going to be some illness factors that are going to show up. It's probably going to be a couple weeks down the road. Just like you or I, if we get stuck out in this, we get cold, we get stressed, and it takes its toll after an amount of time,” said Mikael.

High winds will stress the cows, but the continued cold could deplete an already uneven hay supply. Weather delays this summer lowered the amount and quality of hay for many ranchers.

"We're hoping we're not going to have to start feeding cattle by mid-October because that will really create another issue as far as having enough feed supply to make it through a potentially long winter,” said Rick Schmidt, Oliver County Extension Agent.

"We didn't have the best hay crop in this area this year. On paper, we try to manage ourselves so we have a year and a half to two years worth of hay supply here,” said Mikael.

Pasture lands also struggled in the spring as cooler temperatures stunted growth. Even facing a stacked deck, North Dakota beef is ready for a challenge.

"Cattle are pretty tough. They're going to be able to handle this quite well as long as they don't cover up the forage sources,” said Rick.

Once the snow stops, it's back to work for the ranchers. Farmers need to get hay bales back from the fields, particularly the roadside ditches.

Those bales have to be cleared from right of ways by November 1.