Waverly farmers weather the storm

Waverly beef farmers Tom and Paula Peterson talk about the biggest challenges that heavy snowfalls and cold temperatures pose for farmers.

Between heavy snowfalls and sub-zero degree temperatures, the past few weekends have brought about several challenges for people in and around the Capital City.

Tom and Paula Peterson are beef farmers in Waverly. While they are accustomed to cold Nebraska winters, like many in Lancaster County, they’ve had to adjust to the elements in recent weeks.

“It’s just a change, you have to change your daily schedule plan for longer times,” Paula said. “Right now I’m having to chop waters when I go out. You just have to plan on everything taking twice as long as it normally would.”

The Petersons can relate to Lincoln residents getting up early to start and warm up their cars before going to work. They do the same with their tractors.

“Normally, I’ll start a tractor and let it run for a while and everything warmed up,” Tom said.

As for their cattle, the Petersons say that while 30 to 50 degree temperatures are most comfortable for the animals, they can handle when the temperature drops below zero.

“As long as it’s just cold, most of the animals are doing really well,” Paula said. “They’re built to be outdoors. Their bodies are designed to be outdoors.”

What is the worst-case scenario for cattle farmers during the cold winter months?

“For us? A cow having a calf,” Paula said. “The mom cow has to know exactly what she’s doing to take care of the calf, otherwise it’s going to be frozen solid.”

The Petersons say the loss of a newborn calf could cost upwards of $400, while the loss a more mature cow could cost as much as $1500.

“To us, it’s more personal because we don’t like to have live animals die,” Tom said. “But everything has a value. So if something dies, yes, you just lost that.”

Fortunately, the Petersons haven’t have that issue. Their cows generally calve in March.

They say their biggest obstacles this winter have been having to warm up their tractors, removing ice from their cows’ water supply, driving tractors on slippery roads, and of course, pushing snow.

“Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to put it all,” Tom said. “But that’s everybody’s problem.”

Categories: Lancaster, Nebraska News, News