Winter on Morgan Ranch
Good afternoon from Morgan Ranch in the snowy, cold Nebraska Sandhills. The high today was 17 degrees and we had a couple inches of snow and wind. It has been a challenging winter. Here in Nebraska, we expect cold and snow, but not this prolonged cold and an inch or two of snow every other day – and there is no relief in sight for the next two weeks.
Our day starts with starting the tractors, which is not always just a turn of the key. Thank goodness for winter treated diesel. While one person works on the tractors, the other does miscellaneous chores around the barn – feeding the bucket calves, the show calves and today it is a cow that went down on the truck coming home from corn stalk pasture.
Once the tractor gets going, the feed wagon is filled. We run a ration of silage, corn, distiller’s by-products and ground hay. Three wagons full go to the feedlot pens and four loads go out to the cows. With snow cover, it is taking a lot more feed.
One of the big projects on cold mornings is getting the ice chopped from the tanks. There are eight tanks that need ice chopped and three more that have tank heaters on them and don’t need chopped unless the heating units went out during the night. The deepest ice they have chopped this year has been about a foot deep. We water with submersible pumps, solar pumping units and windmills. In the winter, the windmills are the most reliable. We have had some weeks when the sun did not shine much and the solar units did not pump.
The cows are adapting well. The hills on the ranch provide good protection. If there is an actual blizzard, we don’t try to feed them because they find a well sheltered area to wait out the storm.
The grandkids are not really thrilled when we have a snow day, because that means they get to scoop out bunks and chop ice on tanks. No inside video games with cattle to take care of.
It has been a long, cold winter, but at least we are not in the heavy part of calving. Those that are have to put everything in the barn to keep the calves from freezing when they hit the ground. We calve in late March and April, so we are hoping for warm, dry weather in a few weeks.
We have no plans to leave these snowy Sandhills. Our roots are here and most of the time it is our little slice of heaven. Our kids and grandkids have learned to appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to run the ranch and we hope that the fifth and sixth generation of Morgan’s will be here in the future.