LIMON, Colo. (KDVR) — With the Eastern Plains expecting temperatures well below zero degrees on Thursday, ranchers rushed Wednesday to prepare cattle and livestock for the potentially deadly drop in degrees.

“Cold weather is not new to us, being ranchers here in eastern Colorado,” said Kelsey Pope, one of the owners and operators of Solid Rock Red Agnus ranch in Limon. “Today, ahead of the storm, is the most important day.”

How to protect livestock from the cold

Limon could see some of the coldest temperatures in the state Thursday, especially when factoring in wind chill. Protecting the ranch’s roughly 1,200 cattle from the wind is crucial for their survival. Pope said they’re corralling livestock to areas with shelter and structures that block the wind to help.

Another key is making sure livestock is well-fed ahead of the frigid day.

“We’re making sure that the cattle are fed extra,” Pope said. “We want to make sure they all have full bellies and that they’re comfortable before the storm. That way they’re not out trying to find feed during it.”

Pope said the sicker and older cattle are the most at-risk, so they will get priority for food and shelter.

“We do health checks before and after the storm to make sure to look for runny noses and downed ears,” Pope said. “If there are any of those going on we’re pulling our calves and making sure that they’re staying healthy.”

Another key is protecting valuable bulls on the ranch, which means keeping their reproductive organs healthy. Laying straw on the ground, which is already covered in snow out east, is another method of protecting their livelihood.

“To be able to have that straw on the ground so they’re not laying on the snow or ice, it doesn’t affect their reproductive organs that way, so bedding is super important,” Pope said.

Colorado State University has tips for what to expect and how severe cold weather impacts livestock as part of the CSU Extension.