April 15, 2011 / 3:34 PM / 6 years ago

Floods, snow threaten N.Dakota cattle herd

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - A snowstorm looked to blanket flood-stricken North Dakota on Friday and could create conditions similar to those that killed tens of thousands of cattle in other flood years, farm officials in the state said.

South central North Dakota looks to get six to eight inches of snow Friday, with up to six inches expected further west and one to two inches in the eastern Red River valley, the U.S. National Weather Service said on Friday.

Rising rivers and melting snow have flooded much of eastern and south-central North Dakota.

Similar spring weather helped kill 70,000 cattle and calves in the state in 2009, the most since the last severe flood year in 1997, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture records.

"It's wet, it's icy. We've got a lot of vulnerable animals out there," said Dr. Charlie Stoltenow, an extension veterinarian at North Dakota State University. "Could it be a repeat (of 2009)? It could and I'm sure hoping it isn't."

The snow arrives during North Dakota's delayed calving season and threatens to freeze vulnerable calves, Stoltenow said.

Much of North Dakota's cattle herd, which ranks No. 17 among U.S. states, is on the open range. Wet weather followed by cold temperatures can cause cattle to freeze, he said.

The conditions are "definitely" a concern for cattle survival, but temperatures are not as cold as in other years and most snow has melted, said Aaron Krauter, executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency office in North Dakota.

A federal program, called the Livestock Indemnity Program, compensates farmers for deaths of livestock due to adverse weather.

The state's herd is concentrated in central and western North Dakota. Water from melting snow has run off fields in much of western North Dakota, but sloughs remain full, Stoltenow said.

In contrast to North Dakota's cold and floods, pastureland in southwestern states like Texas is drying up and threatening cattle production.

Editing by David Gregorio

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