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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Livestock facilities meet challenges

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  • Livestock has to be fed every day of winter even if the ground is covered in a deep blanket of snow and the wind is howling.
    At Pratt Feeders and Pratt Livestock, these winter storms present a bigger challenge than for most farmers.
    Pratt Feeders has about 35,000 head of cattle in their pens and they all have to be fed and watered every day no matter what the weather.
    But Pratt Feeders is prepared for bad weather with big equipment designed to handle snow removal and cattle feeding no matter what the weather conditions, said Jerry Bohn, Pratt Feeders general manager.
    Some of the crew spent the night at the facility to make sure they were on hand to get the cattle fed. Some were on site from Sunday night to Tuesday morning.
    "It was a little bit rough Monday night with the wind but it looks like everybody handled it as best they could," Bohn said.
    Other crewmembers were unable to get to the feedlot because the access roads to the east and south of the feedlot were drifted shut.
    The crews stayed very busy as they battled the blowing, drifting snow. They had to plow roads and clean out feed bunks before putting in the special mix of feed.
    In snowstorm weather, the feedlot changes their feed mixture to a blend that is higher in roughage and less grain, Bohn said.
    The cattle eat incessantly during snowy weather. With the different feed blend the cattle are less prone to indigestion.
    Getting all the ingredients for the feed also proved to be a challenge but everything arrived and the cattle got fed.
    The first storm dumped about 16 inches of snow. That snow had been cleared and a lot of it melted when the second storm brought another six to eight inches so it was quite a challenge.
    Pratt Feeders has a custom pen cleaning crew already and they do use them as extra help during snowstorm events.
    Each pen has its own heated water source so water was not a problem. Keeping the cattle fed and watered helps them stay warm even though they are exposed in open pens.
    Normally, Pratt Livestock has full pens on Thursday sale days but for two weeks in a row the sale had to be called off because of the weather, said Mike Lewis, Pratt Livestock general manager.
    The first sale day was rescheduled for Saturday because they already had 800 cattle on site and they didn't want to hold them over for a week. The sale turned out to be a good move because the second storm cancelled the sale again a week later.
    Page 2 of 2 - Only a couple of the pens had cattle when the decision was made to cancel the Feb. 28 sale because most of the consignors couldn't get their cattle to the sale barn, Lewis said.
    "We just decided to shut down for a week," Lewis said.
    Like Pratt Feeders, the sale barn has equipment on site to deal with snowstorms. They can keeps alleys cleared and feeders clean so that wasn't an issue but getting the cattle to the sale barn and getting buyers there just wasn't going to happen for the Feb. 28 sale. Some of the sale barn crew could not get to work but the crew on site was able to clean the bunks three times and have the pens ready to start receiving cattle for the March 7 sale. Currently, Pratt Livestock has about 100 head on site in just a hand full of pens. With the rest of the pens empty, Pratt Livestock looked very odd on sale day Feb. 28.
    Because of the cancelled sales, Lewis is expecting about 4,000 head for the first March sale with cattle starting to arrive as early as Saturday but with most starting to arrive on Monday, March 4.

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