Ranchers in the US state of Arkansas were fitting stockings over the heads of calves in a desperate attempt to keep them warm.
In Montana, ranchers were duct-taping calves’ ears to their necks to stop them from falling off.
In Oklahoma, new-borns arrived onto snow-packed frozen ground and perished while ranchers were sticking the hardest-hit animals in the front seat of pickup trucks and even inside their homes.
Across the American Plains, South and Southwest, the unprecedented cold wave has killed dozens of people and made millions of lives miserable.
The winter storm has been brutal of flora and fauna in the region. Thousands of sea turtles washed off the shore of South Padre Island.
“It’s survival of the fittest right now,” said Tyler Beaver, a founder of brokerage Beaf Cattle Co. in Arkansas. “Lot of hay having to be put out on a daily basis just to keep the cows warm enough to not freeze to death.”
Scores of broiler houses, where chickens are raised, were without power. In Mississippi, four broiler houses were destroyed from collapsed roofs overwhelmed by snow and ice.
Farmers are struggling to get food and water to their herds.
Jake Feddes in Manhattan, Montana has been duct-taping the ears of baby calves to their necks.
“Their ears will get frostbit and fall off,” Feddes said by phone, adding that they can succumb to hypothermia.
Beef packers were forced to shut down meat plants due to energy constraints. Consumers stocking up have also cleared store shelves of food while there are long lines at fuel stations.
The weather woes, in addition to killing some young animals are expected to slow the rate of weight gains in cattle as they use energy to stay warm. Lighter animals will mean smaller supplies later this year, a time when consumers already were expected to be paying higher prices for meat due to soaring animal feed prices.