AMKOTA CALVING SHELTERS

After delivering sold-out calf shelters to area ranchers throughout the day Monday, Mark Brueske loads the last of Amkota’s calf shelters onto the truck for delivery Tuesday morning in Wessington Springs. In preparation for the upcoming blizzard scheduled to blast the area Wednesday and Thursday in the height of calving season, Brueske said Amkota has sold out of wind break materials and continues to sell large volumes of milk replacer. “The calf shelters were sold before the truck got here and six other stores in the region are sold out,” he said.

On Monday, shiny baby calves bucked and played, their clean, soft coats gleaming in the sunlight as it spread across the rolling hills. The “heavy bred” cows stood, legs stretched out to accommodate their large, expanding bellies, chewing their cud.  They were uncomfortably pregnant but content.   Monday was a textbook spring day.  Monday was 73 degrees. 

On Tuesday, clouds covered the long-desired sun.  Droplets briefly fell from the sky.  The temperature was 55.  A typical, and often welcome spring rain shower.

Some might mistake the soft warm breeze, the chirping of birds and the ever-present pollen in the air as a sort of “calm before the storm.”  But the loud hum of tractor engines in the distance told another tale.  The cattle were unaware of the forecast, but humans knew it was no time to bask in the balmy weather.

What will Jerauld County awake to on Wednesday?  What evil twist does Mother Nature have in store once again?  Phrases such as “historic storm,” “bomb cyclone,” “dangerous blizzard conditions” and “record snowfall” are on the lips of South Dakota’s meteorologists.

Considering our tri-county area is engulfed in the heaviest band of snow predicted —one to two feet of snow Wednesday night and into Thursday — on top of heavy rainfall presented on Wednesday and extreme wind gusts of 50 mph for this week, we might be in for our most dramatic weather experience yet for 2019.

While a mid-April blizzard may seem an oddity, history seems to show the opposite.  Fresh in many a mind is last year’s emotional experience in fighting for their livelihood’s welfare in life threatening conditions.  Thanks to weeklong warnings though, ranchers were as prepared as they could be and that they were grateful for.  

1986’s April version of a “bomb cyclone” was not as well predicted however, and left a path of devastation for many local producers who suffered tremendous herd losses due to the surprise freezing rain and heavy snowstorm.

As grocery lines swell and farm and vet offices run low on proper materials for producers to save their stock, those still at home push through lack of energy and sleep. Machinery rumbles across the yards and fields carrying shelters, dropping bedding and setting up windbreak to protect against the extreme winds estimated.  Visions of Xanto dance in ranchers’ heads as they trail healthy, happy mother/baby calf duos to safer, more sheltered temporary destinations.  New babies, still wobbly on their legs, lag behind but are encouraged by their bellowing mommas to keep up.  

“Will they be strong enough to make it?” many ask themselves.  Only time will tell.