The Arctic snowstorm that hit Utah this week may not be as devastating to Utah's farm animals as the wind and moisture that follow the snow.
Utah Commissioner of Agriculture Cap Ferry said the wind and moisture during cold weather are more harmful to steers, milk cows, sheep, pigs, turkeys, mink and other farm animals than dry cold weather."Cold damp weather can lead to disease and foot or hoof and leg problems, and a high wind will make an animal a lot colder than if there is no wind at all.
"A dry, cold day shouldn't bother most animals. As long as they can reach food and water, they should be fine."
Ferry said Friday he has had no reports of farm animals dying this week because of the cold and snow.
"The weather would have to be subzero for a long, long time before most animals would be affected," Ferry said. "A few days of cold wouldn't be noticed especially."
Oregon sheep ranchers say the cold front that has swept through the Northwest has struck their flocks at lambing season, when they are most vulnerable, killing many newborn animals.
Foot-deep snow and below-freezing temperatures have forced ranchers up and down the Willamette Valley in Oregon to feed their sheep extra rations and lend each other a hand to protect lambs from the cold.
Ranchers there say sheep are unable to brush away deep snow to reach grass, reducing their food intake at a time when nutrition is critical because of the cold.
"If winters really get bad, farmers bring hay and feed, including fortified food pellets or cubes, out to the range so their animals will have plenty to eat," Ferry said.
One of a farmer's biggest nightmares, Ferry said, is snow so deep that he can't get to his animals. "High winds not only chill you, but can cause drifting snow that can make driving treacherous or even obliterate a road."
Historians recount the killing winter of 1879 as one of the worst on record. The summer was dry and the hay crop was only half what it normally was.
Winter brought with it heavy snows, even in normally sheltered areas. Accounts of losses differ, but a Cedar City cattleman reported losing all but 20 of his 600 head of cattle. In other areas of the state, cattle loses were estimated at 20 percent to 60 percent.