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0608 PD: Weathering the storm

Brandon Covey Published on 14 April 2008

I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say, “Boy, the weather has been almost perfect this year.” It seems like that used to happen every now and again when I was a kid.

I suppose I could blame global warming or El Niño (or is it La Niña?), but I figure the most likely reason there’s no perfect season is that I have a more national outlook as an adult. As a kid, I just worried about my little corner of Oklahoma. Now, as I look at the U.S. (and sometimes beyond), there is nearly always someone with too much water and someone with too little.

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Eastern Oklahoma and Texas recently got their fair share of rain. My dad said our dairy got around 8 inches in a couple of days, and I heard areas around Dallas reported nearly a foot. I stayed dry in Lubbock. During all the rain, my mom had an interesting question for my brother-in-law, Drew, who is a partner on our dairy and has a reputation for walking a straighter line than the rest of us. She wanted to know if God had come to him with a blueprint for an ark. (I guess Mom was going to try to hitch a ride and smuggle the rest of us on as stowaways.)

One morning after a night of rain, Dad went to feed a pasture of about 20 yearling heifers, and only about half came up. Upon driving the field, he found that 10 head had been killed by a bolt of lightning. On some heifers, there were visible strips, where the lightning traveled through them to the ground. They dropped instantly where they stood or laid. Of course (as it seems is always the case in situations like this), one heifer was a good show heifer and another was consigned to a big sale in Iowa. All total, Dad figures he lost more than $15,000.

I don’t think there’s any real practical way to prepare for a lightning storm. None of the heifers were covered by insurance. I talked to Dad’s insurance company and was told cattle have to be declared individually under the “livestock policy.” The cost to insure is 63 cents per $100 for the first endorsement. (Of course, all providers will vary a little.) So, it would have cost about $95 to have insured those 10 head for a year. The tricky part is guessing which 10 are going to die. A more practical scenario might be to insure the better half of the herd. Let’s say we insure 200 for an average of $1,500 each. That’s a check to the insurance company for about $1,890 per year. In other words, we’d get our money back, if 1.26 of the cattle that died were selected to be insured. It’s kinda like the lottery – only you have to lose to win. I asked Dad if he would recommend people insuring their cattle. He said, “if they can’t afford to take a hit like this.” I guess that’s the bottom line.

Losing so many cattle at once reminds me of a story my Grandpa used to tell about Old Man Griggs. Mr. Griggs had several cats in his house, and he cut several holes in the door going from the kitchen to the back porch.

Someone finally asked him, “Couldn’t all the cats just use one hole?”

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Old Man Griggs replied, “Yeah. But when I say ‘scat,’ durn it, I mean ‘SCAT’!”

Dad also tries to joke about it. He says on the bright side, with the cost of corn and hay, he’s not losing money on feeding those 10 heifers anymore. Also, they were just about breeding age, so there’s another expense he won’t have.

May we all find the strength to weather our storms. As always, God does the rest. PD

Southwest Regional Manager Brandon Covey

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