Carrington Research Extension Center


| Share

When Disaster Hits the Cow Herd


Winter in the Northern Great Plains is inevitable.  It will be cold and it will snow.  The question is how much and for how long. A 2-3 day blizzard started on December 5, 2016 followed by subzero temperatures the following week.  Another blizzard hit on December 26, 2016.  Snow falls are hard to measure with 30-60 mile per hour winds.  However, the height and width of the snow drifts are impressive.

In severe winter storms, blizzards, and extreme cold, all cattle are stressed. Although most healthy cattle can handle these uncomfortable storms sometimes they can’t survive. The old, weak, and young are particularly susceptible to stress in bad weather.  Placing cattle in barns may help but keep in mind during a blizzard, snow can fill up a barn and cattle can get buried in the snow.  The hot, humid air quality in a barn may lead to pneumonia which can be far worse for animal health than standing outside in a blizzard.


Death losses due to weather related disasters can have a huge financial impact on cattle producers. 

The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill ‘to provide benefits to livestock producers for death losses in excess of normal mortality caused by eligible adverse weather, eligible disease and eligible attacks’.

LIP payments are based on 75% of market value as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture for the year of the loss.

For cattle, a Notice of Loss (form CCC-852) must be filed with the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office within 30 days of when the loss was apparent. The Application for Payment must be filed within 90 days after the end of the calendar year in which the eligible loss condition occurred.

Losses that are payable are only in excess of Normal Mortality.  Since you don’t know when disaster may strike, it is prudent to take a picture of all dead livestock as proof of loss.  This includes all cattle that die throughout the year regardless of the reason.

Normal Mortality is different for various groups of cattle.  For North Dakota, normal mortality is:

Age ClassNormal ND Mortality (%)
Adult Cows 1.6
Adult Bulls 2.0
Calves (<400#) 4.6
Calves (400-799#) 1.5
Calves (>800#) 1.0

For more information about the Livestock Indemnity program, go to the 2016 fact sheet

Also, contact your local FSA office for more information and to apply. To find your local FSA county office, visit

Continue to be safe as we weather this winter together.

Area Extension Specialist, Livestock Systems

Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.