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Published March 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Spring brings new life

Despite temperatures that have dipped below zero, and some increasingly messy conditions, calving and lambing has been going well, an NDSU Research Extension Center official said.

By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press

Despite temperatures that have dipped below zero, and some increasingly messy conditions, calving and lambing has been going well, an NDSU Research Extension Center official said.

Kris Ringwall, NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center director and animal scientist, said despite wetter conditions this spring, things are going O.K.

“It’s been a tough spring,” Ringwall said. “It’s all about the individual producer. Moisture is great in the summer, but during calving time, when you’re getting a lot of thawing and a lot of snow, that’s the biggest challenge.”

An additional challenge, Ringwall said, is finding areas to put cattle until the snow melts.

‘We’re not cold enough where we would have enough calf ear loss or something,” Ringwall said. “I haven’t heard of any calves dying that would be above average. Anytime cattle are stressed, can’t dry off quickly and are stressed, that’s a fatal combination.”

Calving is hard work, Ringwall said, and the hard work is doubled in wet conditions such as this spring. Producers have to put in more time, effort and diligence in getting calves up on their feet and into drier areas.

In commercial herds, calving is kicking in and will increase towards the end of this month Ringwall said, but very few, if any; he believes would be completely finished.

“In early April, it’s a big calving time and March is too, but people are gearing up for it,” Ringwall said. “Springs like this remind us that we want to wait a little bit. That third to fourth week in March is a little bit more secure.”

Lambing in March and April aren’t uncommon Ringwall said, although having access to a barn is crucial.

Those that don’t have facilities, you’re looking at May or so,” Ringwall said. “That’s true of cattle as well, but cattle are a little tougher, and will certainly withstand a little better. If you don’t have good facilities, late April or May is when you’re going to have to lamb.”

Many area sheep producers are lambing now because they are doing it indoors, he added.

A current challenge producers are seeing right now, Ringwall said, is a combination of frozen ground and thawed ground and accessibility.

“Some of these gravel roads are getting pretty boggy,” Ringwall said. “That farm yard needs to dry out. That impacts the whole work level and making calving a lot more work.”

Russ Hoff, an area producer who lives southeast of Dickinson, was surprised to see last Tuesday that he had three new calves from one mother.

“It was around 2 a.m. and I went out there and I saw all these animal eyes, I thought it was rabbits,” Hoff said with a laugh. “Then here was three identical bull calves.”

The calves, Gelbvieh-Simental crosses, each weigh about 80 pounds each. Hoff and his wife had to bottle feed the triplets initially, due to their inability to walk.

“It took them a while to stand,” Hoff said. “We’ve had some twins before, but never triplets. I was surprised.”

As for the rest of his herd, Hoff estimates he’s approximately 1/4 done.

“Calving is going O.K.,” Hoff said. “It’s pretty sloppy conditions, but we deal with it as best we can.”

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