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This year's snowy winter especially tough on Iowa ranchers

The weather has been hard for the state's $13.6 billion livestock industry, which leads the nation in pig and egg production.

Posted: Feb. 27, 2019 11:06 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa's cold and snowy winter has been especially difficult on livestock producers, who have often struggled just to reach their animals.

Iowa so far has seen a February snowfall average of 21 inches (53 centimeters), State Climatologist Justin Glisan told The Des Moines Register . That's just short of a record 22.2 inches (56.39 centimeters) set in 1962.

The weather has been hard for the state's $13.6 billion livestock industry, which leads the nation in pig and egg production.

Rancher Trent Thiele said he had to ride a snowmobile 50 miles Sunday to check on his pigs. He said blowing snow made the trip treacherous.

"I got thrown off the snowmobile hard, several times," he said. "You just couldn't see. You'd hit a snowbank, go flying and get back on again."

The heavy snow is causing an overwhelming amount of maintenance issues as farmers work to ensure machines in animal facilities are providing fresh air, food and water, Thiele said.

Jeff Kaisand, a state veterinarian, said he had a difficult time this weekend getting to ranchers and their animals.

"Producers are resourceful. They will dig the roads out themselves so they can get to animals," he said. "There were farmers running tractors up and down the road where I live, trying to open up roads."

Dan Hanrahan, a rancher in Cumming, is taking extra care to ensure his cows are well fed so they have a thick coat and fat layer to help them withstand the frigid temperatures. He's giving his herd additional hay bales and buckets of corn.

Hanrahan will soon need to conduct nightly checks on his heifers, to ensure those delivering their first calves aren't having issues.

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