Well, the worst of it is over (I think). The Southern Plains great cold snap/polar vortex/snowstorm of Feb. 2021 is in the rear-view mirror.

As we come out on the other side of this historic event, I think it’s only appropriate to ask ourselves what kind of adaptation strategies we used on our farms and ranches and what lessons we learned.

People have often asked me what I mean when I write or talk about climate adaptation strategies for farming and ranching operations.  The impression they often have is that I am talking about some grand strategy that employs modern technology and takes tons of money and time.

Clearly they have never visited Pope Hilltop Farms, which is the name we’ve given to our farming and ranching operation here at Loyal, Okla. My brother, his wife and granddaughters, my oldest nephew, my mom, myself and my wife and kids make up the operation. 

As I’ve said before, I’m a “part-timer” having also the USDA climate hub/consulting gig as part of my livelihood. That said, this past week it was definitely all hands-on deck and we implemented our own “climate change, extreme weather adaptation plan” which I figure mirrored many of yours.

First, we pre-positioned round bales in on the north side of several places to form wind breaks for our cow-calf heard and stocker calves. We also unrolled a bale or two in an effort to provide bedding, especially for baby calves.

Next, we put a few bales around where it would be easy to get to them in the event snow blocked our hay pile. We also plugged in the tractor with the front-end loader and hay fork on it, put feed on the back of the 4-wheel drive trucks and made sure we had drained hoses and hunkered down to ride it out.

Sound familiar?

Extreme weather adaption planning, is not rocket science. It doesn’t have to be some crazy complicated thing. Most of the time its common sense and just thinking ahead on things.

Could we have done more? Sure. We should have stocked up on milk replacer in anticipation of having to feed baby calves. 

If we wanted to get active and make a capitol investment or two, we could build some kind of heated barn for newborn calves and avoid putting them in my brother’s utility room. We also could build windbreaks in several of our pastures. 

Will we?  Maybe.  We will have to consider the cost and just how often we think we are going to see these kinds of conditions in the future.  We could invest in some kind of solar powered water heating system to help reduce the need for breaking ice in stock tanks too, but again, it’s worth it in Oklahoma? Maybe — but those are the kinds of questions we need to consider as we reflect on this last week.

See?  That’s not crazy complicated. It’s just putting some thought into things and using your head.  How many times have we had something happen and someone said, “Well, you could have done such and such,” and we said, “Why in the hell didn’t I think of that?” 

That, my friends, is the basis of adaption planning. Sure there is more to it than this — yes, there is much more in the way of technology and management practices that you can consider — but don’t let all that intimidate you. 

Just use some common sense and give it some thought.  That in and of itself will go a long way.