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Businesses and animals chilled
Cold raised concerns, problems with animals and stalled work
Truelove Dairy cattle eat from a bale of hay in the dairy’s field Thursday afternoon.

Business operations chilled more than sheltered animals and livestock this week as transportation provided most of the winter weather challenge for Hall County workers and farmers.

But one area zoo reported its animal infirmary filled with illnesses the owners linked to wide temperature shifts.

"Two years ago (winter) was bad, last year was worse," said Hope Bennett, who owns North Georgia Zoo with her husband Tom. "This, we never imagined anything like this."

Rather than one day of snow followed by a quick thaw, the sustained freeze since Sunday's storm has overhauled task lists at her family's Cleveland zoo, Bennett said.

Water is the most critical issue, with frozen pipes causing vigils barn side.

Zookeepers are shuttling hot water bins to the various places where many of the zoo's 400-plus occupants are being housed. Ice is then broken in buckets as it forms. Symptom watching is constant, too.

"The biggest thing is making sure the electricity doesn't go out, making sure snow is not caving in enclosures, looking for snotty noses, shivering, lethargy and water," Bennett said. "The (most) important thing for animals in cold weather is having water to drink. It keeps them hydrated and warm. That's our No. 1 priority."

Supplying basic care to dogs and cats housed in the region's two main animal shelters also challenged workers this week. Reasons why related to transportation, said Rick Aiken, president of the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.

"(Staff was) ready and willing to come in. They just couldn't get there," Aiken said.

He solved the problem by carpooling crews in his Chevrolet Suburban. The Hall County Animal Shelter navigated similar dilemmas in managing care for its current population of 350 animals.

Mike Ledford, Hall County's animal services director, coordinated with other county offices to free four-wheel-vehicle rides for the four to five kennel staff needed at the indoor shelter.

"All the departments in the county worked well with us," Ledford said. "Our biggest thing was just getting folks here."

Calls to the county's Animal Control and Enforcement about dangerous conditions affecting the outdoor pet population have not spiked beyond usual figures, he added, though that may change as the ice thaws.

"I think most folks had the common sense to bring their animals in, except for those few cases," he said. "And we were able to take care of those."

Nonessential services were suspended at both shelters through most of the week. The Humane Society's spay and neuter appointments were rescheduled. Adoptions resumed Wednesday.

"We had five or six adoptions (Wednesday), which is high," said Julie Edwards, the society's development and marketing director. "I think people were stir crazy and wanted to get out of the house."

For dairy farmers and chicken growers, the cold weather chilled business more than the animals.

Monitoring milk trucks and feed supplies proved tricky for Jerry Truelove, owner and operator of Truelove Dairy. One feed shipment had to be put off a day because of the storm.

"We wound up having enough feed in our bins," he said. "As long as we keep our electricity, we don't have too much trouble; as long as it's just snow and ice and the milk gets picked up and the feed get delivered."

The impact of the temperatures on the cows' milk will take days to determine, he said. Typically, cold is kinder on dairy cows than heat, Truelove said.

"It will take another day or two before the milk production to drop, if it's going to drop because of the cold," he added.

Road problems impact chicken growers most, said Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, an Gainesville-based organization.

"Our businesses are like other manufacturers, transportation is a key part of the operation. That means delivering, picking up chickens at the farms in rural areas, delivering baby chicks, and then ensuring that you have enough employees at the processing plants to operate," Giles said. "I've been staying in contact with the companies. Things are not quite normal. But they are returning to normal. "

Energy costs due to increased heating will also impact chicken farmers later, he added.

The winter's toll on the North Georgia Zoo has not been factored yet, with the Bennetts still recovering from the December snow after Christmas.

The wide temperature swing led to the fatal illness of a female kangaroo and her joey, a rare albino.

Then, with little time to recover, snow fell again - and stayed.

"At this point, we're about to take a deep breath. We're through the worst of it," Bennett said. "We're tired. The constant mental energy of making sure you didn't miss anything ... even when the snow thaws now, it will be a mud pit. That will be our next issue. We're going to be happy for the snow to melt. But when it does we have mud."


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