HODGEMAN COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – The livestock industry is bearing the frigid temps as ranchers work around the clock to keep their herds alive and healthy. For many ranchers currently, their main focus is on the newborn calves.

Rancher rolling out a bale
(Courtesy: Henderson Farms, South Central, KS)

“We try to roll hay out down in the bottoms to keep them out of the wind. So more than likely, this is where the new ones will be,” said farmer and rancher, Tate Miller.

Tate Miller farms and ranches in Ford and Hodgeman Counties. In the winter, his work is focused heavily on cattle.

Miller looks after both his and his father’s herd. Each day, he cares for hundreds of cattle, and right now, it’s calving season for his operation.

The brutal wind chills have made work harder. “You just gotta be here. You gotta stay on top of it, keep an eye on them at all times,” said Miller.

Rancher checking on calf
(Courtesy: Laurie Pacey Zink, Turon KS)

On top of Miller’s normal feeding duties, he has to break ice two to three times a day, roll out bedding to keep the cattle warm and check the soon-to-be moms and newborn calves as much as possible.

For many, this means checking the cattle every few hours and getting up several times a night to ensure no new calves are left in the cold. “It’s hard on cattle, hard on people, hard on equipment. It’s not fun, but it’s just something you gotta do,” said Miller.

It’s a similar story across the state from north to south, east, and west. Ranchers are putting calves in pickups, warming boxes, and bathtubs full of warm water trying to thaw the newborns and bring their body temperatures back up to normal.

Newborn calf warming up in a pickup
(Courtesy: Kristin Underwood, Esbon, KS

Many are also making sleeves to keep calves’ ears from getting frostbite and falling off.

The difference between life and death for a newborn calf rests on minutes. “As soon as they drop a calf, within, you know, 15, 20, 30 minutes, that calf could be so cold it doesn’t have a chance to get up and nurse, and then it’s just downhill from there,” he said.

For many ranchers, their herds are more than animals, it’s a piece of their lives, and for most, their livelihoods are on the line. One calf lost could mean a hit to their income.

Ranch makes sleeves to go over a calf’s ears (Courtesy: Circle E Ranch Red Angus, Avenue Granite Falls, MN)
Newborn calf put in bathtub to warm up
(Courtesy: Doyle Creek Land & Cattle Co, Florence, KS)

“They provide for you so you kinda gotta provide for them,” he said.

At the end of the day, many ranchers across the state say, it doesn’t matter how cold it is, it’s their job to care for these cattle and they’ll do everything in their power to keep them warm and comfortable.