'Haylift' Aims to Save Stranded Colorado Cattle
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
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ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick.
Parts of the West are still trying to deal with a huge snow storm from last week. In southeast Colorado, most roads are cleared by now, but many fields are not. This is ranching country, and cattle are stranded by snow drifts.
Joy Wooten and her husband Steve live on the Wooten-Doherty Ranch. That's near Kim, Colorado. He is out looking for 150 head of Red Angus, and she is with us by phone. Joy Wooten, welcome to DAY TO DAY. And please, just describe the terrain where you live. What is the land like there?
Ms. JOY WOOTEN (Ranch Owner): Thank you, Alex. Our country is pinon-juniper country, and we have up to 1,000-foot deep canyons in the Purgatory River Valley. And it's very rough.
CHADWICK: But it's not all flat like the plains, so it would be harder to find the cattle, I would think.
Ms. WOOTEN: Correct. There is a lot of arroyos and ravines that the cattle have a hard time crossing that have filled in with snow, so that also makes it difficult.
CHADWICK: And this is quite a large ranch, as you told me earlier - 27,000 acres. These cattle might be at some distance away. How is Steve trying to find them?
Ms. WOOTEN: It is two different ranches, and we're helping our uncle today. And they have a big four-wheel-drive tractor with a v-plow on the front of it. And they are plowing that and then also following behind that with a four-wheel-drive pick-up with chains.
CHADWICK: How deep is the snow out there?
Ms. WOOTEN: We have about four foot. We had two different storms - one before Christmas, which we still have some of - and then three foot on top.
CHADWICK: That was the huge one that shut down Denver International Airport for days and…
Ms. WOOTEN: Correct.
CHADWICK: Yeah. And then you got fresh snow on top of that?
Ms. WOOTEN: Yes sir, about three feet on top of that.
CHADWICK: Wow. So what's it like trying to plow through that?
Ms. WOOTEN: Oh, it's extremely slow. My uncle worked 12 hours yesterday and went one and a half miles. And it's very slow, very heavy and wet. And he's going to have to go another mile and a half to find the cattle this morning. So it will probably take about two days to even get to them.
CHADWICK: And now these cattle are out and dispersed, and you didn't know that this storm was coming so that you might try to get them back maybe to a barn or corral somewhere where you might hold them closer to the ranch house.
Ms. WOOTEN: We did get the pastures closer to the house, but our cattle that are 15 miles away, there's no way we could have got to them and brought them closer.
CHADWICK: I'm reading that there are efforts to fly food to cattle with helicopters. Have you seen helicopters there?
Ms. WOOTEN: No sir, we haven't, but we are on the list to get hay drops to our cattle. But there are so many people in different counties also that need help. So it's just basically wait your turn.
CHADWICK: Well, how long can you wait? How long can the cattle wait?
Ms. WOOTEN: They can last about 10 to 14 days without food. And the cattle that are in our remote area, we haven't been there for a week tomorrow. So it's getting into the crucial time within the next week that we get to them.
CHADWICK: Isn't calving season coming on fairly soon?
Ms. WOOTEN: Yes, sir. Mm-hmm. Some people in the (unintelligible) calve in January, which is, you know, right here. And then we calve late February. So they are bred cattle.
CHADWICK: So many of these cows out there would be, I would think, kind of heavy with calf at the moment.
Ms. WOOTEN: Yes, all of them. Uh-huh. Yes. We have different age - older cattle that kind of know the country a little bit better and know how to get around that are pregnant. And then we also have first calf heifers, which are coming two year olds, and those are our main concern because this is their first calf.
CHADWICK: They don't really know what they're doing.
Ms. WOOTEN: Exactly. Not as much.
CHADWICK: And it's very rough out there.
Ms. WOOTEN: Yes, sir. A lot of arroyos and canyons to maneuver through that have drifted so it's hard to see. It's also hard to get there. We have to stay on the main road pretty much - when you can see the main road.
CHADWICK: You know, we checked the weather report online for Kim, Colorado, and we saw rain and snow forecast for Friday.
Ms. WOOTEN. Yes, sir. I was trying to not pay attention to that, but I did hear that. I believe the forecast is for just a little bit of snow, so that will help if - you know, if we don't get a lot, we'll be OK.
CHADWICK: Well, Joy, good luck out there.
Ms. WOOTEN: Well, thank you. We appreciate your - the opportunity to tell our story.
CHADWICK: Joy Wooten, speaking with us from the Wooten-Doherty Ranch near Kim, Colorado, snowed in. Joy, thank you.
Ms. WOOTEN: Thank you.
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CHADWICK: More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.