Only in the Midwest can we go from 50 degrees one day to single digits the next. This weekend didn't bring the onslaught of snow the Kansas City area expected, but enough cold and snow to kill my motivation to run and keep me indoors – I'll take the dreaded treadmill before I brave the weather outside. This winter has been undeniably rough, and cattlemen throughout the U.S. have had their hands full. With temperatures dropping to the single and even negative digits in many parts of the Midwest, keeping young calves warm has been paramount, especially in Missouri, where many producers calve in the fall.
In February, when parts of Missouri received 10 inches of snow, it was Saline County farmer and former Mizzou lineman Kurtis Gregory's responsibility to ensure his fall-born calves were sheltered from the cold. "We went out and put out a bunch of round bales and straw bedding, and we had some older bales set up for a windbreak," Gregory says. "You could just see the calves instantly go running back under [the cover of the bales]. All 20 calves were lying next to it."
A shared experience
While this may be common practice for producers like Gregory, the rise in social media has provided an opportunity to share this experience. This might involve a photo of a newborn calf warming itself in the cab of his pickup like the one Gregory tweeted in January. "If there's a new calf born on a cold day, we try to put him in the pickup to make sure he's warm," he says. "You always hear people saying, 'bring your pets inside.' A one-day or two-day old calf, when it's that cold, as a good producer you do everything you can to keep that calf healthy."
This situation isn't limited to Gregory. Producers across the country have shared photos and videos of cattle and day-to-day chores this winter. Consumers are going to get information online, and Gregory says rather than getting misleading information from HSUS or PETA, the best sources are farmers and ranchers themselves via Twitter or Facebook. "There are good producers doing everything they can to tell their story and say 'Here are our cows and here is what they look like,'" he says. "Whether it's a healthy calf, seeing the cows against the sunset, baling hay, or anything dealing with livestock, whatever drives you, why not show that?"