Utah cattle ranchers losing calves to winter conditions

Mar 23, 2023, 11:30 AM | Updated: Oct 19, 2023, 12:36 pm

CACHE COUNTY, Utah — Most Utah cattle farmers have been praying for a good winter and they are getting exactly that.

However, all this snow is coming at a cost.

Many Utah cattle ranchers have lost calves due to the deep snow and cold weather this winter.

“The snow just won’t stop. It is like we’re in a snow globe, and somebody keeps shaking it,” said Ryan Merrill with a laugh. “It’s like Groundhog Day.”

Merrill runs JH Land and Livestock in Cache County and has worked with cattle nearly his whole life.

However, he has never had to do it like he has this year.

“Some of the older guys say we’ve had this much snow, but I don’t remember ever this continuous storm after storm on top of each other,” he said.

All those storms and all the deep snow have been difficult for his cattle, and not all the calves born have made it.

“The cold temperatures or disease now. It’s getting warmer and the wet and the continued wet, it’s tough on the baby calves,” he said.

According to the Utah Farm Bureau, many cattle ranchers in Utah are facing this issue.

So far this year, ranchers are reporting anywhere from 10-to-20 percent of their calves have died this season, which is roughly three times higher than in past years when the winter has been more mild.

“It’s definitely more than most years for sure,” said Merrill.

He and his family have even converted a truck into a sort of cow-taxi, bringing calves into a barn to get them out of the snow and give them a better chance to survive.

“We bring them in and heat them up and dry them out and then get them back to their moms,” he said.

Merrill says he has even had friends and neighbors come to his ranch to help clear path in the snow for cattle so they are better able to get to their food.

However, even with all the challenges this year, he’d rather have too much water than no water.

“You know what? Life can be worse. It always can be worse,” he said. “We are very blessed here.”

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Utah cattle ranchers losing calves to winter conditions