Icy journey for Texan cattle in snow-go zone

James Nason, 27/03/2013

If you think an Australian winter can get cold, spare a thought for our friends in in the US.

This picture was taken in late February in Pampa, a township of about 18,000 people located about 30 miles north east of Amarillo on the Texas panhandle.

Rabobank’s US based market analyst Don Close included this image in his presentation to the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association annual conference in Alice Springs last Friday, and it offered something of an instant tonic to the 40 degree plus heat building in the red centre outside.

Mr Close explained that 19 inches of snow (about 50cm) had fallen in Amarillo on the morning this picture was taken, in combination with 40-50 mile an hour (65-80km/hour) straight winds with gusts of up to 70 miles an hour (110km/hr).

“With that kind of wind, and with that much snow, the snow packed so hard that those cattle were walking right over the top of the fences,” Mr Close said.

“This group made it into town, and were standing at the corner of first and main.”

According to a CNN News report, the picture was taken by James Devoll who was on his way to work in the oilfields near Pampa.

“He couldn't hear anything because the wind was howling so bad,” Mr Devoll’s wife told CNN. “We have had gusts of wind up to 75 mph and have gotten 18 inches of snow so far. He said the cattle were just trotting along in a herd.

"They passed him and parted around his truck.”

Mrs Devoll explained that the cattle were following the road.

“They most likely got loose after drifts covered up fences and they were able to just walk over.

"Schools were closed for the day. Drifts were up to the first floor windows in people's homes. Very glad for the moisture even though it is not convenient.”

A Pampa resident added that the cattle had been grazing on wheat pasture six miles north of Pampa and had travelled 10 miles through the blizzard.

“They would have made it farther, but the owners were able to pen them south of Pampa Monday afternoon.

"They were moved a mile on Tuesday to a pasture that had water.

"A total of 211 head were in the group. They all survived and were moved back this morning.”

Meanwhile, the latest seasonal outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology suggests Australian producers are more likely to experience warmer than normal conditions as they enter the cooler months of the year. 

The official forecast for April to June suggests that southern Australia and the northern tropics will experience warmer than normal days, while cooler days are predicted over southern Queensland, northeast NSW and southwest Northern Territory.

The outlook is mostly the result of warmer than normal waters in the Indian Ocean, with near normal temperatures in the tropical Pacifc Ocean having minimal influence, the Bureau said.

The chance that the April to June maximum temperature will exceed the long-term median-maximum temperature is considered greater than 60pc over the northern tropics, the southwestern half of WA, southeast SA, southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. Probabilities exceed 80pc over parts of western WA (click on maps below).

Such odds mean that for every ten years with similar ocean patterns to those currently observed, about six to eight April to June periods would be expected to be warmer than average over these areas, while about two to four years would be cooler.

In contrast, there is a 25 to 40pc chance of warmer than normal days over southern Queensland, northeast NSW and the southwest NT. In other words, there is a 60 to 75pc chance of cooler than normal days over these areas.


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