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Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Mon Apr 01, 2019 7:46 am
by Big Muddy rancher
Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher
Shad Sullivan
March 29, 2019 10:35 AM

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"Who else has the knowledge, the experience, and the fortitude to press on," asks Shad Sullivan? "The American farmer and rancher." ( . )
Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Shad Sullivan.
I have heard the stories down through the years of blizzards of days gone by. The Towner, Colo., tragedy of 1931 was one that I often heard about through my grandparents and my neighbors from that era. In history, I’ve read of the winter of 1886 and 1887 where 90 percent of the cattle trailed north into the plains, perished after bitter cold and constant blizzard conditions refused to break. And, in more modern times, I often heard talk of the blizzards of the late 1940’s that pummeled the plains from South Dakota to Kansas and Colorado, one after another. So many experiences and stories told of death and survival, triumph and tragedy, and the power of mother-nature, by those who endured.
Of course, I have my own blizzard stories. In 1979, I faintly remember my folks trying to save calves by the droves as they were calving out heifers for extra money to live on. In 1988, we trekked out to the long-barn every few hours to make sure the horses had fresh air. That year, the stocker calves we were conditioning ended up close to the river 35 miles way…..the ones that lived. In 1997, an evening norther’ blew in a three-day blizzard and caught me off guard at the local watering hole on a Friday night. I was embarrassed that my dad had to hunt me down there and tell (or yell) that under no circumstances was I to start home, “stay in town, this is a cow-killer.” He was right. Three days later 30,000 head had perished in corners, canals, rivers, and ravines decimating herds and family operations over southeast Colorado. 2005 brought misery and death to the country between the Arkansas River and the Canadian. Several severe blizzards pounded that region over and over, and some country wasn’t exposed to the sun for six months.

And now, right on the heels of the 2013 South Dakota storm named Atlas, devastation has struck the heartland once again. The images coming from operations just like yours and mine are heart breaking. They are devastating to watch, hard to comprehend, and are simply gut-wrenching. A family in eastern Wyoming canoeing brand new babies across Mule creek to shelter and safety and South Dakota lamb producers digging in ravines to free individual sheep who, by luck, were able to breathe through melted holes in the snow after being completely covered. The carcasses of multi-thousands of cattle and new-born calves are starting to reveal themselves as warmer days come forth. Herds of cattle and horses stranded on small islands all over the state of Nebraska must take to the icy flood waters to find feed and drier ground because this time, a blizzard wasn’t enough…..it came with massive flooding. Thanks to social media, we are able to empathize with those who are sharing their stories, and some of us can say, "we’ve been there, and we are here for you now.”
There is no doubt that trial has come knocking on the doors of producers across the center of the nation at a pretty rough time. While many producers are still in recovery mode of devastating drought conditions, others are trying to dig out from the market collapse of 2015. Ranchers in the southern plains are still trying to digest wildfire losses, while others in the north Texas area never got a grazing wheat crop in due to an abundance of rain.
And the weather conditions are the least of it. Let’s wait for another time to explain that before the storm, producer exodus in the heartland is expected to be sharply higher this year. Let’s wait for another time to explain that not only are producers fighting unpredictable markets, private property rights issues, a legion of regulatory changes, and global consolidation, but they are also fighting to defend themselves against animal rights groups, radical environmental groups, and an often-misinformed consumer. And bridging that gap can be hard when you’re trying to save a baby calf you just pulled in a minus 40 wind chill while that fall mortgage number throbs on your frontal lobe like a migraine headache. Let us wait for another time to figure out who we should and shouldn’t thank in the food chain, because dammit, the last time I checked the most grateful group of people on earth are the ones who plant the seed and make the harvest. They are the ones who put up all of the risk, in search of a reward which often doesn’t come to fruition, and I have never heard one producer speak on the need to be thanked. But I know they are thankful…….all the way down the line. Salt of the earth.
As I sit here and think about these folks who were in the path of this storm, I have come to understand that they were made for a time such as this. Though the storm catastrophic and the losses great, who else could endure? Who else has the knowledge, the experience, and the fortitude to press on? The men and women who sow the seed and tend their flock, The American Farmer and Rancher.

God Bless America, God Bless Nebraska and God Bless the American Producer…………And THANK YOU to ALL farmers and ranchers, you have earned it.
Shad Sullivan is a stocker operator who manages his family operations near Olney in north Texas, and Ordway in southeast Colorado.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Mon Apr 01, 2019 8:40 am
by Faster horses
I got the cold chills reading that. :cry2:

Hats off to ranchers and farmers everywhere. And yes, THANK YOU.

Thanks for posting, BMR. It was :clap: .

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:21 am
by WB
Amen, thank you BMR for posting that. This business is not just a way of life but also our livelihood. Those that have never witnessed the loss will never understand and those that have will never forget as it is etched in our memory forever.
Say a prayer for us all next week. Forecast doesn’t look pretty.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 7:46 am
by Faster horses
WB wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:21 am
Amen, thank you BMR for posting that. This business is not just a way of life but also our livelihood. Those that have never witnessed the loss will never understand and those that have will never forget as it is etched in our memory forever.
Say a prayer for us all next week. Forecast doesn’t look pretty.
What is in your forecast for next week, WB? I looked and could only find rain for N Central SD. I'm sure willing to pray for good weather, just wondering what you are seeing. Of course I looked at Mobridge since I don't know where you are for certain.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:48 pm
by WB
Rain snow mix for wed and thurs with wind. Any natural protection here is under snow or a in a mud hole. Neb is probably going to get 1 to 3 inches of precipitation in one form or another. Potential for more flooding I would guess. I hope they are wrong but I doubt it. The plan here for now is to leave the cows spread out hopefully we can get to most of the calves in time. I am sure we won’t save them all. Mud is no friend to a baby calf.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 1:09 pm
by Big Muddy rancher
Praying for good weather for you guy in the flood and storm track down that way. It's been a tough spring for you folk.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2019 9:33 pm
by Faster horses
WB wrote:
Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:48 pm
Rain snow mix for wed and thurs with wind. Any natural protection here is under snow or a in a mud hole. Neb is probably going to get 1 to 3 inches of precipitation in one form or another. Potential for more flooding I would guess. I hope they are wrong but I doubt it. The plan here for now is to leave the cows spread out hopefully we can get to most of the calves in time. I am sure we won’t save them all. Mud is no friend to a baby calf.
So sorry to hear. We will pray that the weather that comes isn't as bad or as much as predicted.These are
very trying times to say the least.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 4:23 am
by WB
The forecast doesn’t look good. Going to have to bring all the cows in close. Anything born in about 48 hr, window of storm will have to be brought in. Hope everyone stays safe. We currently are not in the bullseye and am thankful for that but feel sorry for areas that are forecasting 12+ inches with 40 mph winds.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 3:53 pm
by Faster horses
WB wrote:
Mon Apr 08, 2019 4:23 am
The forecast doesn’t look good. Going to have to bring all the cows in close. Anything born in about 48 hr, window of storm will have to be brought in. Hope everyone stays safe. We currently are not in the bullseye and am thankful for that but feel sorry for areas that are forecasting 12+ inches with 40 mph winds.
You made me feel better. We are to have 10" of snow and 20 mph winds.
I hope this forcast is wrong........feel so sorry for the young livestock. You can only do what you can do,
but it isn't easy having it on your mind. Our warning is from 6 pm Tues night to 6 pm Wed night.

Praying for everyone and everything to be safe.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 4:42 pm
by WB
The forecasters say this is a tricky storm to predict. I don’t like the sound of that. I guess we are about to find out as it should start snowing here about 4 am wed. Morning.

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:01 pm
by Faster horses
Raining here now. Saying up to a foot of snow, 20 mph winds. Stay safe everyone.
This storm is named 'Wesley' and it's the second bomb cyclone. The first one is the one that hit NE so hard. :cry2:

Re: Shad Sullivan: I’ll Thank A Farmer....and a Rancher

Posted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 10:22 pm
by mrj
Here, 8 miles north of exit 170 on I-90, we have had some sprinkles since just before dark, I believe. Forecast is pretty nasty, similar to what others have posted. I know 'the crew' has been preparing as best they can all day, and still at it a few minutes ago, judging by tractor lights around the buildings. Think they brought some heavy cows in from 'across the creek', and put out more hay. We had a storm of the type predicted several years ago, and there really was nothing we could do during and for a while after, as tractors and pickups were useless. Even the horses were impossible to use, as the snow was very heavy and wet and balled up on their shod hooves to the point they could scarcely walk. Lost most of the calves born during that storm.

We are a pasture focused operation, without facilities to 'put them all in the barn', and this ranch has operated in a pretty 'lean' way since 1888, with good native grass pastures on fairly rugged terrain, with lots of natural 'shelter' in deep grassy draws with a few trees and lots of brush. Currently 13 family members are living on this ranch, and making our living here, according to a recent 'bulletin' by a 6 and a half year old great grand daughter. Some years are great, some not so great, but the average is working in our favor, and we are in the process of transitioning from our third (myself and spouse) to our 4th and 5th generations operating the ranch. I'm sure this storm is more fearsome for Gen's. 4 and 5 than for either we 'elders' or the 4 and 6+ year old girls! I just hope everyone stays safe. We can cope with cattle losses, so long as the people stay safe!

The 'worry wart' in the family has been grumbling that we probably aren't going to have enough grass if we don't get some good moisture soon....so hope this one fills that need, even if we have to pay a 'price' in lost cattle. We are always very conservative in our use of our native pastures. We do no farming except for a little hay grown on old fields. We grow no grain crops, believing our land isn't really suitable for farming, much of it being quite rough, and having lots of wind much of the year. So, preparing the best we can and praying for the best outcome possible is the plan.

It has been fun to hear all the birds singing, and enjoying being outdoors without heavy coats lately. I took the little girls for a walk along the creek a few days ago, and we all had a great time, but I was the only one who 'paid' dearly for the sudden increase in exercise! The long winter had been 'wearing' on me for some time, so guess I 'enjoyed' the beautiful spring day a little too much!

mrj