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Extreme Winter Weather Creates Additional Headaches For Farmers

NOEL KING, HOST:

Ranchers in parts of the South and Midwest are trying to keep their livestock from freezing to death. Here's Seth Bodine from member station KOSU.

SETH BODINE, BYLINE: The freezing temperatures have frozen water tubs on this farm near Oklahoma City. The ice is several inches thick.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE BREAKING)

BODINE: Kyle Glazier uses an axe to break through it to make sure his cattle have access to water. In this video recorded by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Glazier said he doesn't remember weather like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KYLE GLAZIER: I tried to prepare as best as I could. I tried to get all the hay arranged where I could get to it even if the roads got bad.

BODINE: And it is historic. In the middle of the country, these are record cold temperatures, for farmers and ranchers like Nocona Cook (ph), that makes work difficult.

NOCONA COOK: It's physically draining. It's mentally draining, emotionally. I mean, I've told my wife the other day, it's terrible when we do absolutely everything we possibly can to keep these cattle warm and to keep them alive.

BODINE: He's been up since 3 a.m. making sure calves that are born don't freeze to death. He uses hay as bedding to keep them warm and opens up heated barns. Other ranchers have been putting calves in front seats of their pickup trucks or placing them in hot tubs at home to keep them alive. Even then, Cook says there's only so much he can do.

COOK: And you know these snowstorms are coming. And the winds are coming. And the temperatures are dropping. And you did absolutely everything you possibly can do to keep these cattle safe. And, sometimes, it's not enough.

BODINE: It's so cold, some ranchers have icicles in their beards and on their noses. But they keep going. It's not just life that's at stake, it's money. Cattle are worth around $1,500 apiece. And frostbite or other weather-related injuries make them worth less when they sell them.

For NPR News, I'm Seth Bodine in Oklahoma City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOONCAKE'S "CAST THE ROUTE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.