When a shivering cold and wet, wide-eyed baby calf was born on an unusually frigid El Nino Kansas evening in late February 2019, the resulting turn of events were proof that miracles happen but can’t be taken for granted. Right on the heels of this calf (named ‘Laurie-Bell’) coming into this world, El Niño’s peak onslaught arrived; heaving a relentless stream of bone-chilling, frosty nights and days from late February into March.
For heifers and even seasoned cows, delivering their newborns this season became especially daunting when compounded by an unsympathetic Arctic airmass that thrust single digit temperatures and a piercing north wind through two-foot snow drifts covering many Midwestern farms.
The National Weather Service notes – high winds, freezing rain or sleet, heavy snowfall, and dangerously cold temperatures are the main hazards associated with winter storms, as well as slick roads from ice or snow buildup which can result in vehicle accidents. The severely cold temperatures and wind chills during and after a winter storm can lead to hypothermia and kill anyone caught outside for too long. As ranchers know all too well, this potent El Niño season has hit precariously hard for humans and animals. Farmer/rancher Claygatt Shulda, of Republic County, Kansas, agrees – this El Niño winter ranks as the most difficult calving season he remembers.
“I’ve been doing this for over 45 years, and this is the worst winter so far, I think with the extreme cold, and all the moisture and snow,” said Shulda who has a mostly Red Angus cow-calf herd. Clay’s wife Connie Shulda says it’s been a brutal El Niño winter.
“My husband pretty much sleeps in his recliner in his clothes and his coveralls so he can get up every two hours and check on calves. He’s been doing this non-stop from February 1st through March 8th,” said Connie, who’s also a full-time nurse.