With the winter that never seemed to end, Alberta ranchers found this year’s calving season extra challenging.

When temperatures are low enough for you to see your breath, newborn calves struggle to survive outside on the snow-covered ground. To protect their herd, ranchers wake up every few hours throughout a night to check for new births. When a cow has given birth at 3 a.m., it doesn’t matter how tired the farmer is or how freezing the temperature, the newborn has to be brought into a barn and warmed up.

“Because of the weather, they just don’t have the stamina to withstand the cold,” said Dan Skeels, who operates Anchor D Ranch Simmentals outside of Rimbey, Alta. Roy Sroka operates C & G Ranch in Ponoka County, Alta. where he is also up all night ensuring the safety of his cows and calves.

Young calves run around in snow and straw while another finishes drinking milk from its mother. Photo by Stephanie Babych

“Last night we rescued three calves, but some nights we can have eight or ten,” Sroka said, “We all do it because we enjoy doing it.”

“We will bring them into a barn, where, if the barn is full like it’s been for the last few days, it’s warm because the more animals that are in the barn, the warmer it gets,” said Sroka.

But the cold doesn’t just affect the calves.  

Roy Sroka leans against his John Deere tractor after doing chores all morning on his ranch in Ponoka County, Alta. Despite it being April 1, there is still a foot of snow on the ground making everything more difficult. Photo by Stephanie Babych.

“In this kind of weather, the extreme temperatures, you go through that much more feed, that much more straw, your overhead costs are that much higher. People have to appreciate what we do to get food on their table,” said Skeels. The prolonged cold also takes a toll on the equipment.

Watch what Sroka and Skeels had to say during this year’s long winter season when dealing with their own farms.

Video produced by Stephanie Babych.

Editor: Casey Richardson | crichardson@cjournal.ca

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