By Lilly Platts
Nebraska’s strong Simmental community is continuing to deal with the aftermath of the floods and blizzards that wreaked havoc on the state in March. Today, recovery efforts are ongoing as supporters across the country donate money to cleanup efforts, ship hay to those who lost an entire year’s worth of feed, and help Nebraska cattle producers rebuild. The immediate threat of blizzards and flooding has passed, but producers continue to deal with sickness, loss of productivity, damage to infrastructure, and overall recovery.
While an accurate death count will likely take time to calculate, the overall loss was no doubt extreme. Loren Trauernicht, Trauernicht Simmentals in Wymore, recalled picking up 30 dead calves after the Bomb Cyclone blizzard hit their ranch. Since the storm, Trauernicht has been dealing with abnormally high sickness and a lag in growth. In addition, his fall calves are far behind typical progress, and he is now dealing with heifers that are not coming into heat. “Everyone is behind, we’ve had a struggle getting everything done,” Trauernicht explained.
Trauernicht Simmentals supplies bulls to many commercial producers, and through conversation, Trauernicht has heard similar struggles across the region. Reports say that around 10% of Nebraska’s calf crop was lost this spring. Trauernicht has spoken to customers and neighbors with much higher loss. For example, one customer said that of 110 mother cows, 19 calves were lost due to the blizzard. The large blizzard and flooding were the biggest issues for Nebraska, but Trauernicht expressed that the weather has been difficult since last fall. This trend has continued through May, as temperatures have fluctuated and spring has failed to break through.
Trauernicht explained that one of the biggest issues was the timing of the storm. While most seedstock producers have barns and calve in January, many commercial producers calve out on range later in the spring. “So many of the commercial guys calving in March were not prepared for it,” he said.
Trauernicht also recalled a story from a fellow producer who was caught in the flood. Upon being warned of the coming water, they went out with a stock trailer to attempt to move their cattle. They loaded as many as possible, and when they returned, the 3-foot high wall of water had already swept away the rest of their cattle.
Nebraska is second in the nation for cattle on feed, and the state’s feedlots also endured blizzards and flooding. Compared to cow-calf producers, feedlots fared well during the March weather event. They were not left untouched, however.
Tom Williams, Chappell Feedlot, explained that they lost 43 head during the blizzard. Insurance covered the cost of these cattle, but the extreme weather affected gains, and in the end, the calf crop sickness from last fall and this spring will spill over to the feedlot. Overall, Williams said he estimates the cost of gain will be 10 to 20 cents higher for their current cattle on feed.
The Nebraska Cattlemen Association is continuing to accept donations both by check and on their website. Visit www.nebraskacattlemen.org for more information. The organization is also organizing feed delivery and overall assistance for the state’s cattle producers. The deadline for those affected by the storms to apply for assistance is May 31.