Faulk County rancher Sal Roseland has been battling 30 inches of deep, wet snow in an effort to save his newborn Black Angus calves.
“I slept in the barn a little bit last night,” a tired Roseland said during a phone interview Friday afternoon as cows mooed and the wind howled in the background. “We couldn’t use our tractors after 10 a.m. yesterday. There was too much snow. We ended up snowshoeing all day.”
He figured he had put 8 miles or more on his snowshoes since Thursday while trying to make sure newborn calves were faring as well as possible in the historic April blizzard.
“We started calving on Feb. 15, so we’ve got quite a few of the calves already calved out. As the storm kept getting closer and closer, they kept saying how much worse it was going to be,” Roseland said.
The unusual storm with winds from the northeast forced Roseland to get creative with his windbreaks and calf shelters, which were positioned to block wind coming from different directions, he said.
Roseland said he took the school buses he uses to transport hunters at his hunting lodge and parked them with his cows to serve as a wind breaks, along with every wind break panel he had.
That was Tuesday. Since, hadn’t hasn’t seen the better half of his 800-head herd.
“We’ve got 500 pairs that we haven’t looked at since Tuesday night. The shelters snowed under. They can smother from inside those shelters, just without oxygen. The snow was so heavy and so wet, any calves that were outside, the snow was sticking to them. We drug a lot of calves out of snowbanks and had to carry them a long ways to shelter,” Roseland said.
“The storms are kind of crazy. We’re still trying to get pairs dug out. We’re still trying to assess,” he said Friday, adding that the effects of the storm could last longer than the snow itself. “The ranchers might not lose calves right away, but some of the effects of the storm might not show up or a week. The calves can get pneumonia quick — you’ll see them sick one minute, and (they’re) dead the next.”
Roseland said he and his neighbors believe they got as much as 30 inches of snow in the blizzard.
“It’s hard to tell when it comes at you at 55 mph. We’ve had three years of drought in this area so it’s hard to kind of complain. We’ll have a pretty good start on having green pastures,” he said, adding that Faulk County didn’t have an ounce of snow remaining in the days before the storm.
“Now, we’ve got a lot of 14-foot drifts over the top of buildings and through the trees and stuff. Now there’s no dry place for the cows to birth calves, so you’re going to be constantly up all night making sure the calves aren’t in the snowbanks. Most people don’t realize what goes into ranching,” Roseland said.
“We were fortunate we had a lot of family and friends that could get here to help us just in case it got to a point where we had to do something drastic,” he said. “There’s a lot of family and a lot of friends that were ready to help. Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but the snowstorm is just one part of it.”