Power outages hard on SW Minn. livestock producers

Published 1:10 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2013

WORTHINGTON — The spring storms that knocked out power in parts of southwestern Minnesota last week have been hard on livestock producers.

Cattle producer and veterinarian Erin deKoning said she’s glad the power came back Monday at her farm near Ellsworth. That’s because didn’t take long after last Tuesday’s ice storm for her family’s beef cows to realize the electrical fence was no longer working.

“We had cattle all over the yard,” deKoning said. “Luckily, they stayed pretty close to the silage pile on the yard — they’re no fools.”

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But deKoning said the storm, followed by Thursday’s heavy snow, put a lot of stress on animals at other farms. She’s treating sick calves everywhere through her veterinary practice — newborns suffering from pneumonia or scours, a form of diarrhea.

“Anything that makes stress for them decreases their immune system and makes it harder for them to fight,” she said.

DeKonig said her farm typically has up to 220 cows, but their herd now stands at more than 400 animals after calving. She said they’re fortunate they didn’t need to haul water for the animals, as some of their clients and friends have done. They also had generators to help keep their animals warm and fed.

Keith Sieve, a hog producer near Wilmont, said his backup generator was “money well spent.” He said he had enough propane to keep it running until Thursday — and hopes power is restored by then.

“It’s running the water pump in the well, all the ventilation fans, the heaters in the rooms, augers, feed systems, plus it keeps the house warm —the lights and everything else, too,” Sieve said of his 75-kilowatt generator.

At the Jim Joens farm near Wilmont, two 15-kilowatt generators were still powering his calf-feeding operation Monday. He said the hardest thing about not having regular electrical service was the extra workload. More frustrating, however, was that he had neighbors with power restored. There was still a downed power line not far from his property.

“They could put 14 farms online if they just put one pole up,” Joens said.