ROY, Mont – April showers bring May flowers, but what do April snow storms bring?
“When I woke up this morning at 6 a.m., it was -2 degrees. I think it has warmed up a little since then,” said Angela Murnion on April 1.
Some April fool’s joke this turned out to be.
Angela said calving had been going really well. The weather was perfect and the calves were really popping, nearly 14-20 per day. The sudden cold snap has been rough. Angela woke up Wednesday morning and went right to work mixing bottles and trying to warm up chilled-down calves.
“I had one calf that didn’t make it,” Angela said somberly.
Growing up on a ranch, Angela knows the reality that you can’t save them all, but that certainly doesn’t make a loss any easier. She says it is probably the thing about ranching she dislikes the most.
Angela has been working overtime through calving. The family tags all the calves at birth and bands all the bull calves, as well. It takes just about all morning to get that chore done, then the afternoon is ate up pairing out.
Thankfully, Angela’s 12-year-old nephew is off from school at the moment, so he has been able to come out to the ranch and help wherever he can, which Angela is very thankful for. Her younger sister, Kendra, is scheduled to be home the first weekend in April, as well, because her school in North Dakota has shut down.
“She has been able to stay and work with her coaches a bit, but she needs to be out of the dorms by April 6,” Angela said.
Kendra runs track for the University of Jamestown. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted her education and athletics, but there is no doubt she will stay in shape by helping out on the family ranch.
Kendra is not the only one being affected by COVID-19. Complications presented by the virus are starting to ripple into rural America, as well.
“I was in Western Ranch Supply the other day and the guy told me they are having trouble getting vaccines in because most of them come from China. I hadn’t even thought of that. I told my mom we better order our branding vaccines, just to make sure we have them,” Angela said.
Angela’s older sister, Katlyn, has been night calving for another producer closer to Lewistown. She says the virus hasn’t really changed her daily activities, but the bar in Grass Range is shut down, so the social life in the town has really dwindled.
Grass Range’s reduced social life is a great analogy for Katlyn’s night calving duties. The heifers and cows kept her pretty busy the first bit of calving, but the intensity has subsided. Katlyn reported she hasn’t had a calf in several days now.
“They had me sort dries the other night, just for something to do. I just go out horseback with a headlamp,” said Katlyn.
Katlyn was scheduled to wrap up her night calving job April 1, but the weather front may have changed the plans. Her boss asked her to maybe stay on a couple extra nights to at least see the operation through the storm. Once her calving job ends, Katlyn hopes to catch up on some sleep for a couple days so she can get switched over to being awake during the day. After that, it will be back to her job and the awaiting responsibilities on her own family’s operation.
There is no doubt that ranching in Montana comes with its challenges. Sometimes the weather doesn’t always cooperate and sometimes the market doesn’t stay up. None of that matters though because ranchers like the Murnions have to go to work anyways. They can’t stop just because the rest of the world does. Family and cows come above all else for the Murnions and the world should be glad hardworking people like them keep the food supply coming.
(The Prairie Star would like to thank the entire Murnion family for allowing us to follow along and tell their story throughout the winter months. We wish them nothing but the best in the future!)