By Kyran Crist / Online Editor
It appears, for once, the crazy weather changes and temperatures were not exclusive to Kansas, but rather something most of the US experienced, causing schools and some workplaces to close while the temperatures dipped to way below freezings.
Though some work was forced to come to a stop because of the weather, one that could not and had to brave the frigid weather is farmers around the country.
Hutchinson Community College has a campus farm, giving agricultural majoring students, and others, a hands-on experience in the farming and livestock industry.
“It was hard. We all made sure that we had our insulated coveralls and winter coats on, and tried to minimize our time exposed to the cold as much as possible,” said Pat Arkfeld, HutchCC Cowherd Manager. “Preparation began several days in advance to the negative-degree days. Myself, as well as the student workers here, at the farm had to check and make sure all the water bowl heating elements were working so that the cows would be able to have access to water. We also began bedding the cows close to a windbreak in lots and lots of wheat straw that we were so fortunate to have from the summer’s wheat harvest.”
Farming and agriculture can’t take days off in the heat or bitter cold.
“Farming doesn’t stop. It doesn’t have snow days everyone still has to go out in the snow and help out,” said Sarah Sergeant, a Lebo sophomore and agriculture native. “It really is a thankless job, people don’t realize what all has to get done no matter the weather.”
The cold weather decided to come at what seemed to be the worst time, as calving season is in the swing.
“Unfortunately, both the weather and the moon phase changed at the same time, and with several cows with due dates around the time the temperature was expected to take a turn for the worse, we were all expecting to have calves during the extreme cold,” Arkfeld said.
Sergeant said cows were equipped to handle cold weather, but newborn calves weren’t.
“So a lot of the student workers out there had been checking in all through the night every couple of hours to see if any cows had been born, and if they had they’d bring them up to the warming box,” Sergeant said.
Pregnant cows near the barn made for checking on newborns simpler, Arkfeld said.
“We made sure to tend to the cows that already had calves and made sure everything had enough to eat,” Arkfeld said. “The point behind making sure everything had lots to eat is that when a cow digests feed, she produces more body heat so it helps keep herself and her calf next to her warm. With it being so cold, one or two people would stay all night on the couches here in the office, getting up every hour to check to see if anything was getting close to having a calf or if there was a calf that needed to come in to get warm.”
Even through the dangerous colds that some days barely inched above 0 degrees Fahrenheit, not a single calf died. Arkfeld said due to the perseverance of faculty and their student workers such as Jacob Schmiedler, Riley Krehbiel, Steven Hayse, Will Banks, Kasey Johnson, who worked through the challenging weather, ensuring the safety of the newborn calves and mothers.
“I attribute this success to some awesome student workers that took pride in this program and fought the cold and lack of sleep to ensure the cattle were taken care of at all cost. I also believe that without this heated office building and several rolls of paper towels, we could have not made it through these record low temperatures.” Arkfeld said, “We were very lucky to survive this crazy weather as several neighbors to the farm were not as lucky and lost several calves to the cold. All and all, we survived but I hope to never have to endure that extreme of negative temperatures again.”
All animals and workers alike are happy and enjoying the warmer temperatures brought this week and happy to be over with the bone-chilling cold.