Southern US farmers hit by an extreme winter storm have been battling to stop their livestock from freezing to death.
The wintry weather and cold conditions have seen electric, gas and water supplies disrupted across the American plains, Midwest and South, with energy constraints seeing forced closures of meat plants such as Cargill and Tyson Foods.
Montana Farmer Jake Feddes told Bloomberg Green, a global newsroom covering climate news, he had been ‘duct-taping the ears of baby calves to their necks’ to prevent them falling off from frostbite.
Tyler Beaver, a founder of brokerage Beaf Cattle Co. in Arkansas said it was the ‘survival of the fittest right now’.
“A lot of hay [is] having to be put out on a daily basis just to keep the cows warm enough to not freeze to death," Mr Beaver said.
But it is not just livestock farmers at risk, with crops, fruit and vegetables also succumbing to the big freeze, with parts of Texas plunging to minus 18 degree Celcius.
In response, Texas Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller issued a red alert regarding agriculture and the state-wide food supply chain.
“I am getting calls from farmers and ranchers across the state reporting that the interruptions in electricity and natural gas are having a devastating effect on their operations,” Mr Miller said.
“In just one example, dairy operations are dumping $8 million (£5,717,320.00) worth of milk down the drain every day because the plants that process that milk do not have power.
“Grocery stores are already unable to get shipments of dairy products.
“Store shelves are already empty.
“We are looking at a food supply chain problem like we have never seen before, even with Covid-19.”
Reminding Governor Greg Abbott key workers will have no food if farmers are left without power, Commissioner Miller urged him to designate agricultural producers and processors as ‘critical infrastructure that must be provided gas and electricity’.
Brad Rippey, a meteorologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), warned the wind chills, which have been as low as minus 50 - 60, could see the flattening out of weight gains in cattle and other livestock as they use energy to stay warm.
It is understood this winter storm will affect cattle markets for several weeks, with lighter animals seeing smaller suppliers and calves born in this period marked as cold weather survivors, which are frequently discounted at marketing due to buyers fears of foot damage and other injuries.