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Farm & Ranch

Extreme temperature fluctuations usher in calving season

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Calving season is well underway throughout Montana and the Mission Valley, despite the difficulties presented by recent unpredictable weather. 

According to Ken Morris, a member of the board of directors of the Montana Cattleman’s Association, many ranchers are opting for calving in March or even early April due to cold temperatures in recent years. As temperatures continue to fluctuate throughout March, some cattle ranchers have reported checking the new babies as often as every two hours due to unexpected bitter cold that can reduce the immune system of calves and lead to losses from pneumonia. 

Beef cattle specialists out of the Montana State University extension office have a few tips to help calving season go as smoothly as possible: 

—  Be prepared when the first calf hits the ground by cleaning calving areas, calf chains, and calf pullers. Gather and organize the supplies needed for calving and ensure all items are in good working order.

—  Provide dry and warm places for cows to go to shelter if the weather turns challenging. Keep facilities clean to minimize health risks in newborn calves and provide fresh bedding regularly. 

—  Have a vaccination program in place to protect your claves and keep the newborn calves separated from the older calves to reduce the risk of disease transferring between groups. 

—  Increasing the amount of feed given to livestock can assist against cold temperature challenges. Some ranchers have reported seeing the nutritional needs of their cows and calves go up by 50% to keep warm. 

“Having a knowledgeable and reliable calving crew is essential to a great calving season,” extension beef cattle specialist Megan Van Emon wrote. “Providing training to a calving crew about your operation, the dos and don’ts, and any additional information will make for a successful calving season.”

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