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Spring calving is a challenge in extreme winter weather 

cows in spring
Andi James

Wyoming is slowly nearing the end of a long, hard winter. In the meantime, it is calving season for many ranchers, and the continued winter conditions are making things difficult.

Much of the state saw more snow and colder temperatures than it has in years. In Sublette County, the area saw nearly double the amount of days below zero this winter compared to the average. Just last week, the county saw negative digits, and this type of cold is extremely hard on newborn calves.

“It's so cold that if they're born, and they get froze down, they're gone,” said Sublette County rancher Andi James. “About every two hours someone's in them, looking at them. And if something's born, we just go ahead and trail them right on into the barn with the sled and and get them warmed up.”

James said so far this has been one of the hardest years for calving in recent memory. They are expecting 300 calves this spring, and they are still in the early stages.

“I think that's really also hard on animals and it's hard on people and mentally we're just like, ‘Okay, we've got to see some warmth and some let-up here pretty soon for everybody and everything,’” James said.

This is the case across much of the state. On Monday, April 3, Casper saw a record 24-hour snowfall of all time with more than 26 inches.

Jim Magagna, the executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said the deep snow is proving challenging for ranchers in Sheridan and Campbell counties too.

“The snow is just so much that people are struggling even to get around,” Magagna said. “And I talked with one rancher yesterday that has some type of track vehicle, and that's the only thing he can use to even get out to check on these cattle.”

Magagna said there is a silver lining from the hard winter.

“Ranchers are optimists,” he said. “So they're all looking forward to the fact that as a result of all this moisture, there's going to be an abundance of forage this summer for the cattle. So that kind of makes up for it.”

But for now, more snow is still expected for much of the state at least through Wednesday, April 5. Calving season will wrap up around June.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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