Winter storms and building snow take heavy toll on cattle, sheep producers

Posted 3/15/23

Wyoming winter snow and storms hard on livestock

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Winter storms and building snow take heavy toll on cattle, sheep producers


LYMAN — This winter may go down as one of the harshest in recent memory in Wyoming with multiple storms dumping feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures freezing much of the Cowboy State.

Bitterly cold temperatures, heavy snowfall and strong winds are exacting a heavy price from Wyoming's agricultural producers this winter.

Gov. Gordon has taken steps to assist livestock owners who have suffered the consequences of the hard, snowy winter that has hit the state.

He sent a letter Monday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its head secretary, Tom Vilsack. Gordon said, Wyoming’s livestock producers are facing “extraordinary losses and increased costs due to the winter storms.”

Gordon is requesting a federal disaster designation for all 23 counties in Wyoming. The disaster declaration speaks of the “unusually severe” and persistent winter weather on Wyoming’s livestock industry. The letter to Vilsac, asks for assistance to help Wyoming’s Stockgrowers recover.

Under Gordon’s proposal, Jan. 10 through Monday March 6 would be marked a disaster period. According to National Weather Service data, Wyoming was under a winter weather advisory, winter storm warning, high wind warning or blizzard warning for 66-5% of the time between Jan. 1 to Feb. 27. That’s more than any other state in the nation, Gordon wrote in the letter.

He said the long winter has caused ranchers to spend more money on supplemental feed, since a lot of grazing land has stayed buried under the snow these last couple of months. Feed, meanwhile has been more expensive and more scarce than years prior.

This has been a problem in every county in the state, the governor continued.

Livestock producers are trying to transport their winter grazing areas closer to home to keep a better eye on them, he wrote, but recurring road closures have made that difficult.

And while Gordon's request specifically referenced animal mortality, the disaster declaration would also trigger the availability of emergency, low-interest loans to help with some of the costs of additional feed and costs associated with breaking through the snow to get to livestock.

Lyman area sheep rancher Carl Larson is one of the local ranchers heavily impacted by the winter snow buildup. He has a herd of sheep on a winter grazing BLM allotment just north of Carter and east of the HWY 412. This is a checkerboard area in which he also has ground.

Larson has been providing supplemental feed, hay and corn, since January as the ground is snow-covered and there is no grazing in the area. In addition, the I-80 highway closures have also created problems in bring in the corn from the east.

In addition, problems have been created for Valley residents as the Wyoming Highway Department is not longer plowing the Carter cutoff, the highway from Carter to Highway 89 which cuts off of I-80 and goes north, which lies about 20 miles west of Fort Bridger. This in itself has created a problem in getting the feed a couple of miles north of Carter to take off to the winter grazing area.

Some of the cattle ranchers in Bridger Valley have reported some problems getting around in their fields due to the heavy snowpack even with their heavy duty tractors and equipment. In addition, some have lost some new-born calves in their early calvers, feeling this was a combined result of the snow and cold.

Earlier there was a report from northern Wyoming in which it detailed problems livestock producers were experiencing in that area as they were unable to go to feed their livestock and the increased cost of supplemental feed.