Area farmers and ranchers face calving difficulties in heavy snowfall

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– The recent snowfall has affected area farmers and ranchers who are calving at this time.

Craig Bieber, owner of Bieber Red Angus Ranch in Leola, South Dakota, said that calving when it snows heavily is a lot of work. Their operation runs about 950 cows and have bull and heifer development.

“It is the primary time of the year when people are calving, but weather like this makes checking on cattle and making sure that calves get dried off and probably in dry bedding, you know, temperature is little bit of a concern but not as much of a concern as it might be in January or February. But if they don’t get out of the snow and on to dry bedding, it can be serious and you can lose a lot of calves in weather like this,” Bieber said.

Bieber said some of the things that producers need to do include make sure the calves get up and get colostrum quickly by nursing right away, which is very important. If they do not get adequate colostrum during weather like this, they will see a lot of health issues down the road.

If they can, the rancher will move the calves to facilities and out of the snow.

Photo courtesy of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association/ Eric Jennings

When a cold front moves through, producers will see an increase in the number of calves born per day or they will slow down, depending on if they are near a due date, Bieber said. Typically, it picks up.

“Producers watch the weather,” Bieber said. “They make sure that they get bedding out and cattle behind protection.”

The temperature may not be an issue, but the wind chill can be. It is important to make sure that cattle get behind protection and into a bedded area, Bieber said.

Bieber Red Angus ranch calves their cows in the hoop barn system, Bieber said. With this system, their cattle would already be inside for calving and they only have a few pairs outside, but those calves are older and also have shelter and bedding.

“Here on the northern tier of the state, we haven’t had as much snow as they have had on the southern tier and so we are probably not as challenged as they are right now, just because of the amount of snow,” Bieber said. “When you get six plus inches of snow, it becomes a real challenge to make sure that you can keep cattle healthy.”

One option is to move your calving back to prevent having calves in the colder weather, Bieber said. Some producers have success with a later calving season, but it depends on their marketing plan.

Bieber said that once it warms up a little and the snow starts to melt, it is still cold for newborn calves, particularly if they don’t get born on the bedding.

“Cows don’t always want to calve in the middle of a group, they like to get away, and they’ll drop a calf possibly in a mud puddle or a place that’s not as warm, and they still could get chilled,” Bieber said.

Even though the weather right now is affecting calving, once it warms up and the snow starts to melt, there will be a new set of challenges for a producer.

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