Posted: Feb 26, 2013 10:38 AM by MTN News
FORT SHAW - While Montana saw a few big snowstorms earlier this winter, the state has been milder than average with no severe cold snaps, and the weather has helped cattle ranchers who are in the midst of calving season.
Cattle ranching is more than just a job, it's a way of life for Orville Skogen, who's worked tirelessly for many years to make his ranch what it is today.
"We had an opportunity to buy this ranch, and it wasn't very big at that time, and we have just built it up since then. And now we run cattle in five to six counties in Montana, and feed cattle in several different states," Skogen said.
Despite all his success over the years, Orville has had to deal with hardships along the way, most of them stemming from Montana's unpredictable weather. Just three years ago, Montana endured one of its worst winters on record and Orville's ranch dealt a heavy blow from Mother Nature.
"We had 25 below and some extreme winds, and the calves would die within minutes after being born if we weren't there to take care of them. We had some tremendous death loss. A lot of calves froze their ears, their tales, their feet, they just couldn't survive in an environment like that," Skogen recalled.
Since losing hundreds of calves during that winter, some changes were made around the ranch, including adding warming rooms that blow hot air across the floor to quickly dry out any calves that have become wet and cold.
Skogen added that the calving process as a whole was also changed in recent years.
"One of the reasons we stage these cattle like we do now is because of that year, and during that time frame and tough weather, we were getting as many as a hundred calves a day, and in that tough weather we just couldn't keep up with it."
Fast forward a few years, and Orville says he's seeing some of the best ranching weather this year than he's ever had, which is not only helping the cattle but also his hard-working crew on the ranch.
"The health on the calves is better and it's just a lot easier on my guys here. We have five to six full-time employees, and this is a 40 hour a day, eight-day a week job, and so when we get weather like this it lightens the load on these guys," Skogen concluded.