Ranchers prepare for cattle calving in cold weather


BOZEMAN, Mont. - Late February is an especially critical time for Montana ranchers with new livestock being born. Chuck Kohlbeck at Storey Hereford Ranch has been raising livestock his whole life. He warns, "It's the nights that it dips down to the 20 below stuff that we've gotta be really vigilant." Kohlbeck told NBC Montana calves are used to being born in cold weather, but that even nature has its limits. He says, "If you don't have the protection for the cattle you can have a frozen foot." Calves can succumb to hypothermia in as little as 30 minutes but ranchers have a number of tools to protect newborns frigid temperatures and snow.

Kelly Eakin is a livestock specialist at Rocky Mountain Supply in Belgrade. She told us about one of ranchers' tools -- the calf warmer.

She explained, "Put that calf in there and it has a heater that blows up underneath the calf. and then swirls around inside." In the event that a traditional calf warmer is unavailable, ranchers will go to great lengths to keep their newborns warm. Eakin helps ranchers get ready for calving their herd each year. She says they really have just one goal, "Get them up, get nursing, is really what we want to happen." Eakin works with ranchers like Kohlbeck providing food and bedding to help beef up the young calves. She explained what ranchers look for to know if a calf might be struggling. "When they're dropping on the ground and it's cold and the wind is blowing," she tells us, "that's when they need some help." Back on the Storey Hereford Ranch, Kohlbeck will be checking out this year's herd and watching for any possible signs of frostbite or hypothermia -- something he won't let happen on his watch. Kelly Eakin says, "They work very hard to take good care of those animals because that's their livelihood."