01/28/2009 12:00AM

Kentucky farms cope with ice storm

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - A widespread ice storm that killed at least 19 people downed power and phone lines to many central Kentucky farms on Tuesday and Wednesday. Most, though, were continuing to operate.

The storm knocked out power to 400,000 people statewide, more than the number affected when Kentucky's last major ice storm hit in 2003. But farm managers throughout central Kentucky were coping, even in the midst of foaling season.

"The effect has been minimal, compared to last time," said Gary Bush, manager of Denali Stud.

Bush said staff brought the farm's yearlings and broodmares up for the night as a precaution on Tuesday, and one of Denali's three divisions lost power overnight.

"We did have one foal last night, but that was in a barn that had power," Bush said, adding that the farm has portable lights in case of blackouts.

"You can foal with your truck headlights, too, or whatever you need to do when you have to," he added.

At Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., the farm office was closed after losing both power and phone service. Farm manager Gus Koch said the stallion barn also had lost power and falling tree limbs had broken a few fence rails.

"All the horses and all the people are okay," he said. "So far, this has just been a nuisance."

Field veterinarians were still making their rounds as scheduled, though more slowly because of treacherous roads.

"Farms are more understanding if you're late, which is nice. We're all in the same boat," said Dr. Bryan Boone of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. "One thing that is clear to me is that they're putting off routine vet work that can wait in order to clean up from the storm."

At Hagyard, north of Lexington, internist Dr. Michele Frazer said the power was on and the hospital was fully staffed, though the laboratory and pharmacy closed early. Frazer said the clinic had not seen any weather-related increase in equine injuries or illness but was prepared.

"I'm on for the next 24 hours, so my bag is packed," she said. "We're ready for anything that comes our way with the weather."