Blizzard keeps Midwest cattle ranchers busy

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By Associated Press

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Wind gusts of up to 40 mph whipped western Kansas on Tuesday as cattleman Jerry Byrd drove his pickup back and forth between his home and the pens a mile away where dozens of his pregnant cows were waiting in frigid temperatures to give birth. The snow on was only an inch or so deep, but Byrd was keeping a close watch because the cold could kill a wet, newborn calf.

Without space to bring all the pregnant animals in at once, Byrd was keeping them close to his son's barn. A rock wall and trees provided shelter, and he had birthing stalls ready for any animal that seemed about to give birth. His son too was keeping watch over the animals about to have their first calves, checking them every two hours, day and night.

"When it gets this cold you have to check them, you have to bring them into the barn," said Byrd, who lives in Dighton. "They have good protection, but the wind chill is 36 below zero."

The winter storm that paralyzed cities across the Midwest has made life harder for exhausted ranchers like Byrd. Even those whose cows aren't ready to give birth have been busy trying to keep their water from freezing, putting out extra rations to make sure the animals maintain their weight and watching for signs of frostbite.

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