Winter storm buries ranchers

Kai Ryssdal Jan 2, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: The second blizzard in as many weeks has residents in the central plains states still digging themselves out today. Ranchers in the region are scrambling. The last big snow six years ago killed 30,000 farm animals and cost almost $30 million.

John Stulp owns a cattle ranch in Southeastern Colorado. We caught up with him on his cell phone earlier today as he was out trying to find some of his herd.

JOHN STULP: Well, I’m on . . . in a John Deer tractor with a dozer blade on it trying to push snow out of the way so we can get to some cattle and make sure they have some feed and some water.

RYSSDAL: How many cattle do you have, Mr. Stulp, and how long have you been trying to get to them?

STULP: Well I tell ya, in a snowstorm like this, afterwards we’ve got too many it seems like. But we have about 200 mother cows and some bulls and a few other yearling.

RYSSDAL: How long have you been trying to get to them?

STULP: Well, ah see, this is our fourth day that we’re trying to get — we’ve got about three-fourths of our cattle, they’re in good shape and we got feed and water to them. And we just have two other bunches to get to today. And the weather’s cooperating at least — we’ve had clear, beautiful weather the last couple of days.

RYSSDAL: But they haven’t been fed in four days, these mother cows and calves.

STULP: That’s right, they’re having to fend for themselves with three foot of snow. It’s hard to find anything. And most of the cattle were in pretty good shape so they can probably go a couple more days, and hopefully we’ll be to them by then.

RYSSDAL: How much you figure it’s gonna cost you when all’s said and done, getting over this storm?

STULP: You know it’s probably a little early to tell. It’s gonna cost us a lot of extra feed costs this winter, ’cause with three feet of snow on we’re gonna have to feed the rest of the winter. So only time’s gonna tell how well we come out of this. It kinda depends on how quickly mother nature decides to melt the snow off.

RYSSDAL: What’s the weather forecast?

STULP: Well the weather forecast is actually supposed to be nice, warming up in the 40s next couple of days. But there’s another storm supposed to be in on Friday and Saturday, but it’s not supposed to be near as big as this last one.

RYSSDAL: Now cattle are your main operation, is that right?

STULP: Cattle and dry-land wheat.

RYSSDAL: So you’re a wheat farmer as well. There’s gotta be some kinda blessing in this for you.

STULP: That’s right, that’s the silver lining. I guess the cowboy part of me’s kinda frowning, but the wheat farmer part of me’s smiling.

RYSSDAL:John Stulp in Southeastern Colorado. Thanks a lot for your time, sir.

STULP: Nice talking to you.

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