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Freezing temperatures and high winds are costing ranchers thousands

Posted at 7:00 PM, Jan 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 08:34:21-05

FOUNTAIN — The deep freeze is putting a strain on local ranchers in Southern Colorado. Two ranchers tell me they have lost thousands of dollars in recent weeks because of the weather.

Julie Demuesy is the Owner and CEO of Dreamcatchers Rescue Equine Ranch near Fountain. She said one of the most important things is to keep animals hydrated during the winter. Unfortunately, many of their water troughs have frozen over in the past week.

Demuesy said her and her husband use a sledgehammer to break through the ice in the water troughs so their horses can get a drink.

“We gotta keep them hydrated, so we are out here three to four times a day breaking ice,” Demuesy said.

On the rescue ranch, Demuesy takes care of 150 horses, a few chickens, and some goats. Feeding the animals and looking after them is a task Demuesy loves taking on, but the weather this week has made the typical chore much more difficult.

"It's backbreaking work, you know, you're using sledge hammers and axes on troughs like these that don't have tank heaters and I am used to sledgehammering on everything just to make sure that the horses have access to water,” Demuesy said.

She said the keys to the cold weather are water and hay.

“Their digestive systems absolutely need the fluids in order to digest the foods,” Demuesy said. “I was told once that horses can survive in 30 below weather for up to 30 days as long as they have adequate food and water. They don't need shelter, blanketing, they are perfectly self-sufficient as long as they have access to food and water,” Demuesy said.

They are going through an extra 10 to 15 bales of hay every three days.

“10 to 15 times a 150 so 1,500 to 2,000 more a week in addition to what we normally spend a week,” Demuesy said.

Demuesy said it dropped to -14 degrees on her ranch this week.

“The world goes on around us everybody else probably hunker down and, you know, stayed in the warm house and had soup, but we have to go out. We can’t not go out and that’s the same thing with every rancher in every rescue,” Demuesy said.

This includes Jean Meinzer, a 3rd generation farmer on the Four Corners Ranch.

“My husband and I raise red angas cattle, we have a calf cow operation,” Meinzer said. “Some people go to Cripple Creek, others to Las Vegas, and some people run cattle, you know it's a gamble.”

She said if the temperature drops below freezing, there is a risk of losing livestock.

"They're out in the elements. You know, animals have been gifted with that knowledge of what to do but when it's so cold, their ears freeze and things freeze on them,” Meinzer said.

Meinzer said that she tries to keep the livestock as warm as possible by feeding them plenty of protein.

"We have them, like most ranchers do, either windbreak set up or access to the corral. Cattle can get behind barns to get out of that Northwind,” Meinzer said.

She expects to spend more than $1,000 this week.

“Every day we roll out one of those bales that's just short of $200 which we are rolling on the ground for those cows,” Meinzer said. “A good rancher is a steward of what they are given and we are going to take care of those animals."

Demuesy said the sun helps warm the animals, water, and ground. She hopes the worst of the storm is behind them.

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