Gene Dubas owns and operates Dubas Cattle Co. and has marketed Silencer Chutes across the nation and world. His team has sold equipment all over the country — Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Australia, Mexico and Russia, to name a few.
Because of his involvement in the cattle and equipment business, Dubas is constantly talking to producers every day. As a cattleman himself, Dubas can relate to and has been gravely concerned about his neighbors and the conditions of their herd because of flooding and other weather events that have come together in a “perfect storm” of challenges for farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and across the Midwest.
“We live west of Fullerton on a ridge and people wondered how it could flood up here,” Dubas began. “The conditions were just right. We had a big snowpack and rain all at once that led to a huge amount of water. We had washing out of normal waterways that turned into big ditches and we still had frost in the ground so there was nowhere for the water on the flat to go, but stay on the ground and create very, very deep mud. These animals have just gotten tired of walking in this deep, cold mud. It seems everybody has some sort of battle they are fighting.
“We’ve had a lot of weather-related issues that started last year with a wet spring followed by a wet summer and a tremendously wet fall. These animals have been under less desirable conditions for a long time. The best thing for these animals is the sunshine and we have not had that like we normally have had in the past.”
Dubas also said the weather conditions led to issues with feed sources.
“We saw washy grass in the summer, and it was poor stalk grazing in the fields during the fall and the winter,” he said. “We supplemented with lick tubs, liquid protein and regular salt and mineral. Still, the animals do not look that shiny.
“Then we reached the first of the year when the girls are getting heavy with calf.
“They just weren’t doing it. We poured an abundance more feed to them, trying to get them in shape. A lot of people are saying they have the ‘cold coat syndrome.’ This is where they have tried hard to keep their body temperature up in the rain, mud and snow. They are simply using a lot of energy to try and stay warm. They were also trying to raise a baby in their belly, and it was taking a lot. When they had their babies, I feel they did not have the proper number of antibodies in their colostrum to give these calves the usual start that they always do.”
The day-to-day rigor caring for cattle has been coupled with financial burdens. Dubas gave an example of how costs can skyrocket in these types of situations.
“We spend money on these animals to take care of them,” he said. “In February, March, April and May our vet bill was upwards of $30,000-plus and normally we would have had a $4,500 to $5,000 vet bill during those months.”
“The other night it just got to me — what everyone is experiencing and everything going on. It just drains you,” he admitted. “When you do this for one, two or four weeks, that’s one thing. But one, two, three or four months, it’s like, which way do you go, where do you turn to? You consider all the resources of energy, money and time and it’s a battle.
“I talked to a friend of mine in Montana last week and they said they had their butt kicked in calving because of the extreme cold. Mother Nature seems to be fighting everybody. It’s a weather pattern that has settled in here that does not want to give us what we have taken for granted during the milder winters,” Dubas said, adding, “We can get out of it at night and go into a warm house. But these animals are subjected to it all the time and it’s showing on them. I do not know any cattleman that has not gone through more feed than usual and lost more animals than usual. We deal with a lot of customers in a lot of different states. It’s not hard for me to bring up names who have it so much worse and who have lost so much more.
“The best thing is to talk with each other and be there for each other. When we are there for someone else, it lightens up our problems. So many people have it so much worse than we do. We take on responsibility for caring for these animals. You care for them from your heart. It’s not a job — it’s a passion.”
Kerry Hoffschneider can be reached at email@example.com.