Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Vortex strikes U.S. farmers with coldest weather in decades

AccuWeather map
The Midwest is seeing some of the coldest weather in decades this week as the polar vortex, which normally stays over the North Pole, has slipped southward to much of eastern Canada and the U.S. Some temps are expected to get as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Grand Forks, North Dakota, for example, reported a windchill of -75 degrees Tuesday morning, meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski reports for AccuWeather.

For farmers, that means a lot of extra planning to keep their animals safe. "Cattle ranchers Joey Myers and her fianc√©, Scott Bailey, in Minot, N.D., were brewing coffee with plans to stay up all night as long as the cold lasted to check on their animals," fearing the -50 degree windchill could cause their pregnant cows to give birth prematurely, P.J. Huffstutter and Michael Hirtzer report for Successful Farming.

Cattle eat more during cold snaps, so farmers are working hard to make sure they have extra feed and adequately heated water lines to keep them running. And though chickens normally stay toasty in cold weather as long as they can tuck their feet under them on a perch, this kind of weather is too cold even for them. Hobby chicken owners in the Midwest inundated the message board on BackyardChickens.com to ask about advice on how to keep their poultry warm. Suggestions ranged from placing heating pads and red heating lamps in the coop to slathering Vaseline on chickens' exposed skin, to insulating coops by packing snow around them to make an ersatz igloo, Huffstutter and Hirtzer report.

The extreme cold weather will likely last a few days; parts of the Midwest will remain below zero for 48 to 72 hours, Pydnowski reports.

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