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Outages have chilling effect on Iowa livestock producers

by 5m Editor
27 February 2007, at 10:51am

IOWA - Widespread electrical outages were causing havoc for Iowa's livestock producers, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said Monday.

Farmer Bill Massengale fills containers with gasoline on Monday in Montezuma to take to his farm northwest of town after a weekend storm led to power outages in parts of eastern Iowa.

"There are some areas out there with hundreds of poles broken off, and it will take time to get their electricity back on," he said.

Northey said that five or six counties reported that 80 percent to 90 percent of their rural areas were without electricity.

There was no estimate of livestock losses, Northey said at 5 p.m., but there were reports of calves dying.

"We don't have good numbers at this point, but we have heard of cattlemen losing calves because they lacked heat in their barns because they didn't have power," Northey said.

Utility companies were concentrating on getting electricity back on in cities, Northey said, "to take care of people first."

Northey said he had heard reports of a dairy and three hog buildings collapsing because of the weight of snow on their roofs, and diesel tractors too cold to start because the electricity was out and they couldn't be warmed.

An elevator lost its electricity and couldn't grind corn for livestock feed, he said, so it was delivering whole corn kernels to its customers.

"You can last a day or two without power, but then it becomes so much more of a challenge on the third, fourth or fifth day," Northey said. "There is real concern about another (storm) system coming in Wednesday or Thursday," Northey said.

One farmer who was glad he had a generator was Dale Vincent, who feeds hogs near West Branch.

Vincent said he lost his electricity at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and it had not been restored by Monday afternoon.

In 1997, Vincent built two hog buildings and had generators installed in each. His wife convinced him to run a line from the generators to the house so they could keep the home's electricity running if the power went out.

"I feel very lucky," Vincent said. "We've been able to sleep in a warm house and cook our food. And the hogs are all doing great. You wouldn't know there was an outage."

Vincent's neighbors have not been so lucky.

"A lot of them are without power, and I've offered to let them use my well if they need water," he said.

Hog farmer Kelly Biensen of State Center said farmers usually can take precautions against adverse weather.

Source: DesMoinesRegister.com

5m Editor