Relentless wintry weather in Oregon and Washington means tragedy for many cattle ranches

Intense winter weather means tragedy for cattle farmers. Find out more here.

By Anna King (Northwest News Network)

In a remote part of southeast Oregon, about the only oasis for a hundred-mile stretch of highway is the Oasis Cafe in Juntura. Travelers come in for hot coffee served in hulking Styrofoam cups, and to gather near the wood stove.

Rancher Glenn Harris, from Drewsy, said this spring’s bitter cold has been devastating for newborn calves.

“We had about two feet of snow at least, on top of five or six inches of ice,” Harris said of a storm last month. “Those calves are born and they just melt right down to that ice. If you’re not right there, you’re gonna lose ‘em.”

Usually, the mother gives birth on her own without human help and licks the newborn dry. But blizzards make things more complicated: The calves can go from about 100 degrees in the womb to zero — or minus several degrees with wind — and wet coats. Not to mention the more typical risks, like when the calf is too big for the mother’s frame, or the baby is breech.

Harris has a herd of mostly red angus. This year, he said he’s lost around 35 calves. About 25 are injured from frozen joints.


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