Anne Burkholder, owner of Will Feed, Cozad, Neb., knows how to prepare her feedlot for an impending winter storm.

Last week Mother Nature dumped about 12 inches of snow on her 3,000-head feedlot, but she was ready. Prior to the storm Burkholder shared a checklist on her Feedyard Foodie blog (see below) that demonstrated in words and picture how she and her crew prepared for the worst while doing the best for the cattle.

“My foreman and I sit down and brainstorm about storm ‘preparedness’ and use past experiences to come up with a list of things to get done before the storm arrives,” Burkholder says. “Fortunately, weather technology tends to give us a few days notice which is nice and allows us to prepare.”

Studies show that weather stress is one of the largest challenges that cattle face, Burkholder notes. “It is my job as ‘caregiver’ to do everything that I can to help them through this challenge. I can't change Mother Nature, but there are things that I can do to mitigate the stress.”

Adjusting the feed ration by adding more roughage is one of the things that Burkholder does to help cattle through winter storms. “Ensuring good feed and water is critical when an animal is under stress. It is really important to consistently meet that animal's needs through feeding timing and quality.”

Plans and protocols are critically important for good preparation and implementation. “When you are faced with challenges, the last thing that you want to do is fly by the seat of your pants because that leads to costly mistakes that negatively impact the quality of the care that you are able to offer to your animals,” Burkholder says. 

“I am a huge fan of BQA and HACCP because those create a planning mind frame which goes a long way to ensuring success. Develop a plan, have good communication so that the entire crew understands the plan, and then implement the plan during the weather event to the best of your abilities.  That type of management allows for a larger degree of success and fewer mistakes.

Burkholder’s preparation paid off. “Our preparation for the storm was spot on and everything at the feed yard worked just the way that it was supposed to during and after the storm. It's HACCP in action and I am very proud of my crew!” See photos of Burkholder's feedlot after the storm here.

Storm checklist
Burkholder posted this storm preparedness checklist on her popular blog so that those in the industry as well as consumers could see how important cattle care – in any weather conditions – is to cattle producers.

  • Check cattle feed supplies to ensure that we have several days of feed “on site” and easy to get to.
  • Check the water tanks to make sure that each one is operational and in good repair going into the storm.
  • Check both generators to make sure that we can hook them up quickly and easily to provide needed electricity if we lose power.
  • Check the equipment (feed trucks, tractors, pay loaders) to make sure that all of them are full of fuel and ready to run in order to move snow and keep the feeding system operational.
  • Park all necessary equipment inside the shop or the feeding barn to ensure that it is more likely to start when you turn the key.
  • Change the cattle ration (casserole) that we feed to our animals to include more forage/roughage which helps them to generate heat from within and stay warm despite poor weather.
  • Make sure that everyone knows the plan so there is little disruption to the regular routine.
  • Adjust schedules so that there will not be any cattle traveling to or from your farm during the storm. No matter how bad it is on the farm, it is worse out on the roads!
  • Pray that God will help you in your chores and keep your crew safe.
  • Remember that the sun will eventually come out and things will get better.