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Midwest braces itself for winter storm Wesley

Historical spring blizzard is expected to hit the Midwest in the upcoming days. Ranchers going through spring calving are preparing for the worst.

Monday, we enjoyed some beautiful spring weather in South Dakota. With sunny skies, we had the entire family outside to play and catch up on some yard work. For the first time in months, no coats were required. It was amazing!

Tuesday, as I type this, the skies are gray, the air is getting crisp and the first droplets of rain are beginning to fall from the sky.

And in the next couple of days, we are expected to receive anywhere from 18-24 inches of snow. The thought of that much moisture piling up on top of the mud we have accumulated from a long and wet winter makes me physically ill.

As I write this, I have a pit in my stomach. This is all too familiar to the Xanto blizzard from 2018. When I start to think about how we can keep our spring-born calves safe and sound, it’s hard not to feel stressed out and nervous about what’s to come.

The average age of the American rancher today is 58 years old and climbing. Many were hit hard last year with a horrible, long-lasting winter. Let's face it, trudging through the snow and mud as you near retirement age is tough. And if these folks weathered through the heartache and economic losses brought on my a difficult 2018, getting hit again with a similar situation one year later could be the final nail on the coffin for these cow-calf operations.

They’re calling the upcoming blizzard "winter storm Wesley," and from the weather reports, it’s going to be a big one.

The outlook is grim, and I think it’s important to reiterate two things here.

First, no calf is worth the loss of human life. If the situation is dangerous, stay inside. As hard as it is, let it go. Your safety comes first, so don’t get yourself killed trying to be a hero in the upcoming storm. Do what you can to prepare. Use common sense. And then give it up to God.

Second, producers are currently facing challenging economic times. The financial stress combined with pressures to keep the family business afloat while also navigating through the devastating impacts of floods, blizzards and other devastating weather like wildfires can create an overwhelming situation that leaves ranching families feeling hopeless, depressed and plagued with anxiety.

If you are experiencing any of these feelings, please reach out and get help.

Heather Gessner, South Dakota State University Extension livestock business management field specialist shares this information on her Facebook page, “When we have a calf death loss problem, we go to the experts at the Animal Diagnostic Lab. When we have a problem with corn yields, we go to the soil fertility experts at the Co-op.

"What about when you feel like the world is crashing down around you, and there is no way out? Pick up the phone. The experts at the Avera Farmers Stress Hotline are ready to listen 800-691-4336. Assistance can be found by talking to the experts at FarmAid 800-FARM-AID. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, there are experts trained to help at 800-273-TALK. Please, get the help you need.”

As we prepare for a bomb cyclone round two, BEEF wants to keep current on what is happening with our readers across the country. Please send testimonies and photographs to me at amanda.radke@informa.com, and we’ll update a gallery of images on our website. These images can help other news outlets report on the situation as it unfolds with greater immediacy and accuracy.

This is important because, despite producers being an independent lot not looking for handouts, reporting on these weather events will expedite response times for volunteers, hay donations, emergency assistance, disaster relief and other things that may be needed for these communities following the storm.

For examples of previously compiled photo galleries of this nature, view:

I’m hoping the meteorologists get this one wrong and the blizzard doesn’t come to fruition. My prayers are with ranchers as they prepare for this pending historical blizzard.

Please, stay safe as the storm blows in, and remember, even if it feels like it at the time, you’re not battling through this alone. The BEEF community supports you and lifts you up during these challenging times.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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