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12/23/2004

Deep Freeze

Cattle have an amazing tolerance to the cold. Temperatures are dipping close to Zero and you’d think they’d be freezing to death. This morning as I was choppin’ ice from the stock tank the young cattle were runnin’ an’ kickin’ up their heels like it was a warm Spring day. A lot of people aren’t aware of all the ins and outs of handling cattle and think that you need to keep them in barns through the cold part of the year. That attitude even spread through ranch country following the big blizzards of 1886 and 1887 in the Great Plains. Folks got to keeping their cattle in lots where they could seek the shelter of a barn in bad weather.  
 
Truth is keeping them shut up in cold weather promotes sickness. The lots get belly deep in mud and animal waste. The barns fill up with moist air from all the body heat and natural breathing and soon the whole herd is coughin’ and wheezin’.  
 
No… cattle mostly need shelter from the wind. Shelter belts of trees work really well. Naturally timbered creeks and valleys offer about everything an old range cow needs ta come through the winter lookin’ like she vacationed in South America. ‘Course an occasional blizzard can dump a lot of snow. In milder years the ground can get awfully wet when things don’t freeze up on a regular basis, but even then cattle out in the open with some kind of wind break are better off than the ones getting’ babied in the barn.  
 
Ask most any rancher and he’ll tell ya as long as they are dry and out of the wind cattle handle the cold with very little stress at all especially if they are getting plenty to eat. Their bellies are regular grass fed furnaces turning roughage into energy.  
 
Here I am freezin’ my fingers off breakin’ ice so’s they kin have a cool drink o’ water and their a lookin’ at me wonderin’, “Who is that guy with all them clothes on?” They may not mind the cold, but I’m lookin’ forward ta green grass! 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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