Generators on standby as rolling blackouts hit livestock operations

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FORD COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Many livestock caretakers are bearing the frigid temperatures and working round the clock to keep their operations on the grid. This, as rolling blackouts across the Midwest, hit the industry by force.

The power unexpectedly going out has led hundreds of thousands across the Midwest to worry about how they will heat their homes and keep warm in these frigid temps. But for those caring for animals, it’s a different kind of battle.

Diesel in machinery is gelling up, stock tanks are freezing, and warming boxes are being shut off. For many in the livestock business, electricity keeps their operations alive.

“This little thing right here, will keep, the water from completely freezing over so we don’t have to break it out,” said 4-H Mother, Becky Swan.

Becky Swan has a rabbit, chickens, sheep, and horses. She has lost power numerous times for hours on end. Along with her horses’ water supply freezing, the outages have forced her to bring her chickens inside to keep them warm.

“Initially, we were going to leave the chickens outside, but the heat lamps, with the electricity going on and off, at least they have some warmth and some shelter in here,” said Swan.

Others are facing similar challenges. Laton Dowling, a local ranch manager, cares for around 500 head of cattle. He has lost power multiple times. That electricity powers his shop, wells, heating elements in cattle water, and keeps his machinery warm.

“Our well has an electric pump in it, so if cattle are drinking that pump needs to be running to get them water, and if we don’t have electricity then we can’t get water to those cattle,” said Dowling Cattle Company Ranch Manager, Laton Dowling.

Dowling says the unknown of when the power is set to go out, has been one of the biggest challenges.

“Not knowing when it was going to go out was the major issue. If we would’ve known we probably would’ve had the generator around and ready to fire it up and keep everything thawed out,” he said. “On top of feeding and on top of making sure we have no cows having calves, it just adds another hurdle for us to cross.”

Many in the livestock industries have had to rely on using generators for short periods of time to get by. They say their livelihoods and their animals depend heavily on the electricity staying on.

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