ROY, Mont. – In like a lion, out like a lamb. The classic saying about the month of March will hopefully ring true. The gale force winds that have plagued the Murnion ranch and central Montana the first part of March left much to be desired.
“We’ve had 45-50 mile per hour winds here lately. At least it has really dried things out,” Angela Murnion said.
Angela went on to report that despite the massive wind gusts, the physical temperature has been relatively warm, even a little above seasonal normal.
“It really hasn’t been that cold. Right now it’s 53 degrees,” she said during a phone call on March 3.
The warm weather is at least nice since calving season is fast approaching for the Murnions. Angela says the majority of the herd is due to start around March 10, but they already have two calves on the ground. One heifer and one older cow have already calved. Angela says the calves are spry and doing really well. Their moms have been hunkering them down in straw, so they are surviving the wind.
The Murnions have started feeding their cow herd in the afternoon for a couple of reasons. For starters, the wind seems to be the strongest in the morning, but it starts to die down come afternoon, so the cattle are more comfortable leaving the wind-breaks and coming to feed.
The main reason, however, is that by feeding in the afternoon, the cattle are more likely to calve during the day and not during the night. The Murnions have employed this practice for years and Angela has seen first-hand that it actually works. Calving season is stressful enough, so the Murnions are pleased they don’t have as many calves at night, it simply makes it all easier.
All the Murnion cattle are at the home ranch now as they shuttled all the cattle back from the lease. Angela said the process went rather smoothly.
“The cattle all just followed the feed truck right into the corral,” she said.
In addition to trailering the cattle home from the lease pasture, the family has been busy shuffling cattle around at their home base. The heifer calves, which have been on grain all winter, were recently turned out to pasture. Angela is quite relieved. The pesky, bovine equivalent to teenagers have been escaping and a bit of a nuisance these past few weeks, so it’s nice having them out on pasture. More room to roam means the little hellions are less likely to get into trouble. At least that is the hope. They will remain on hay until green grass starts to come, but they no longer receive any creep.
Next on the docket will be moving the first-calf heifers into the corrals behind the barn so they can be monitored closely through calving season. The older cows will also be moved to a pasture closer to the house. With the warm temperatures, spring runoff has begun. The pasture the cows are being moved to doesn’t have a creek running through it, and overall it remains a little bit drier.
“We will just take the feed truck out and the cows will follow. I’ll trot behind them on my horse and pick up any stragglers. The cows should be easy to move, but the heifers might be a pain because they like to run around,” Angela stated.
It’s a balancing act in terms of when exactly to move the herds closer to the house. The Murnions want them close in time for calving, but they don’t want them just standing around bored and eating hay. Either way, fingers remain crossed that since March has roared like a lion in its beginning days, that the weather for the rest of the month will be gentle as a lamb.