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Calves could face lingering health conditions after recent storms

These weather conditions could pose serious future health problems for calves that hit the ground during the blizzard or those who were a few days old when the blizzard came through.

Cattle may face an influx in health issues due to the spring blizzard that made its way through the region.
Contributed / Schmidt Ranch
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With the biting blizzards that made their way through the region and more storm systems on the horizon, many calves’ health status has been hanging in the balance. These weather conditions could pose serious future health problems for calves that hit the ground during the blizzard or those who were a few days old when the blizzard came through.

Rachel Endecott, the founder of Grey Horse Consulting, lives in southwest Montana and has had a front row seat to the devastation heavy snowfall has brought to the state. Being a rancher herself, she is aware of the possible health impacts that this year’s calf crop may face due to the storms. She is particularly worried about what the additional stress could do to the calves and anticipates scours as well as future respiratory problems.

“It's an awfully big event, mother nature was not kind to us and so that's a lot to expect from the calves,” Endecott said. “Scours from stress, usually in that three days after that big event kind of time range. And I wouldn't be surprised either if we see some respiratory issues with some pneumonia.”

The aftermath of the spring blizzards could also cause livestock to have additional health problems in the upcoming months and in the future as well. Gerald Stokka, an NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock specialist who ranches near Cooperstown, North Dakota , warns his fellow ranchers that these health conditions could linger.

“This is the year that there might be some follow up here with some of these disease issues because if calves get chilled, or they don’t get up to nurse right away, then the immunity that they take through the colostrum, that first milk, isn’t absorbed as well as it should be. And so they’re a little higher risk of getting sick,” Stokka said.


For ranchers who have lost calves due to the disaster or will lose cattle due to blizzard complications, the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency's Livestock Indemnity Program may compensate for cattle, poultry, swine, sheep, horses, goats, bison and other eligible livestock that are lost in a disaster.

Zac Carlson, an NDSU Extension beef cattle specialist, stresses the importance of documenting the loss of the animal, as the rancher will need to provide proof of death. Photos or videos will be accepted.

“It’s really important that it’s time stamped, most phones will time stamp pictures. But it does need to have that time available for those,” Carlson said.

Carlson also urges ranchers to reach out to their local FSA offices if they have additional questions about the Livestock Indemnity Program.

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