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Weather Smiling On Producers

“It’s been excellent calving this year.”

– Cliff Graydon

Manitoba cattle producers last week were reporting near-perfect conditions for newborn animals as the annual winter calving season got underway.

Not too cold, not too mild, just enough snow cover and cows in generally good shape.

“It’s been excellent calving this year,” said Cliff Graydon, a producer from Woodmore.

“This kind of weather, minus 20 at night and not melting in the day, that’s perfect.”

Graydon, also Conservative MLA for Emerson, started calving Jan. 28. Last week he was about halfway through calving his 149 beef cows, although he expected some stragglers into April.

Calving this year is a sharp contrast from 2009, which was a bitterly cold winter resulting in more frozen ears and death losses among newborns, said John Popp, a Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives beef specialist in Minnedosa.

His only advice to producers who put cows in barns to calve was to make sure there’s enough ventilation because the buildings can get steamy under mild conditions.

It’s estimated about 60 per cent of Manitoba cow-calf producers calve in winter to avoid wet, muddy conditions that accompany the spring thaw. Calves born in winter are also bigger when the fall cattle run starts.

So far this year, the weather is mild without melting.

Calves are not being born in wet conditions, which can lead to scours and other health problems. There’s enough fresh snow to allow cows to calve in clean areas and not in dirt or mud. As a result, scours is not a major issue this year, Popp said.

He estimated calving was about half finished as of Feb. 17, although the bulk of calving usually occurs between February 20 and March 10.

Farther north in the Interlake region, calving is not expected to be in full swing until early March.

“It’s not really happening right now yet,” said Ray Bittner, a MAFRI beef specialist in Ashern.

Bittner said most cows are in good condition to calve because of a late fall. Exceptionally warm, dry weather in November allowed for late grazing, enabling cows to fill out and save a lot of hay.

Flooding in the Interlake last summer forced some producers to bring in feed from outside the region. Overall, though, local supplies appear adequate, Bittner said. [email protected]

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