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Farmers Weather Freezing Temperatures

March 12, 2014

Montgomery County farmer Stacey Nestor, right, and her daughter, Melissa, feed extra pellets to cattle Jan. 6 as Nestor’s mother, Amy Boyd, drives the farm truck. Nestor said additional feed gives cattle energy to stay warm. Montgomery reported a record low of 13 degrees Jan. 7.

A severe cold snap Jan. 6 and 7 had farmers across the state working overtime to care for livestock and crops. The arctic air dropped temperatures in north Alabama into the single digits, and south Alabama reported lows in the teens.

While satsuma season is nearing its end, farmers sprayed water on fruit trees to prevent freezing.

“I think we are going to have some damage, but we were able to protect our trees,” said Mobile County farmer Art Sessions. “People who don’t have sprinklers could see more significant damage ­— especially to younger trees.”

Lowndes County poultry and beef cattle farmer Kirk Meadows said the extreme cold makes heating chicken houses a challenge.

“In this kind of weather, it’s probably costing me $500 per house, per day to maintain the temperatures we need to raise chickens,” said Meadows, who had six houses of week-old chicks when the cold air moved in. “Our heaters are computer controlled. The set point for our chickens right now is 83 degrees, and when it’s this cold, the heaters don’t shut off.”

Livestock farmers braved the cold and windy conditions to ensure their animals had enough food. Montgomery County cattle and goat farmer Stacey Nestor said extra rations provide animals the energy needed to stay warm.

“It’s calving season, and several of our goats are due to kid any day — but we hope that happens after the cold spell,” Nestor said. “In this kind of weather, we’re checking our animals more often. At least the goats have shelter from the wind.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) reported record lows across the state on Jan. 7, from 5 degrees in Huntsville to 14 degrees in Mobile.

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