Frigid February means long hours for Stevensville farm

Posted at 7:09 AM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 09:10:19-05

STEVENSVILLE – This February has been exceptionally cold, with lots of snow in Montana and that means for many area ranchers the calving season has been different thanks to Mother Nature.

Stevensville’s Sutherlin Farms Red Angus owner Bob Sutherlin will hold his annual production sale later this week and he needs as many calves as possible to generate income.

But when we stopped by for a visit, Bob and his family’s full focus is on making sure their calves survive the harsh late February cold.

“We try to do it so that we don’t have any frozen ears and tails because we’re in the pure-bred business and you want to sell bulls with all their components,” Sutherlin explained.

Thanks to several bitterly cold calving seasons in the last six years, the Sutherlin family has become used to the drill of long nights where time is of the essence, although it doesn’t get any easier with each frigid February.

We checked in on a calf that was about three hours-old during a recent visit, and while it looked like he was going to be fine, Sutherlin said that if they don’t check about 90 minutes throughout the night, there’s a good chance they could lose one.

Cold Calving Season
A cold and snowy February has ranchers dealing with a different kind of calving season. (MTN News photo)

“You’ve got them confined and tight and they just get stepped on, laid on — different things. Also, if you get tied up checking one batch of cows, and you don’t get back quite in time, you’ll lose one just because you didn’t get there in time, and they get too cold,” Sutherlin explained.

A new addition to the ranch is helping save calves that may not have survived otherwise. Two years ago, Sutherlin built a barn that has come in handy — especially over the last couple of weeks…

“You get them in there, and they’re warm, and right now we can bring our calves in there and just lay there, and they dry off,” he told MTN News.

The barn even has an incubator to expedite the warming process.

Sutherlin says that as he’s gotten older — especially in light of the number of recent frigid February’s — he sometimes wonders why he continues to do this. But when asked why his family continues to do this? the answer came out quickly and assuredly.

“I’ve got another generation or two that’s coming up that like the cows and the farm. I’ve worked my whole life to get what we’ve got, and I hope to pass it on to them,” Sutherlin said.

Sutherlin Farms annual production sale will begin at noon on Friday, March 1. Click here to check out their website.

-Russ Thomas reporting for MTN News