HAVRE, Mont. – At Peterson Grain & Cattle (PGC), a dramatic change in the weather occurred on Feb. 1, with temperatures soaring to a spring-like 55 degrees.
“The weather has improved significantly this week. It was 55 here yesterday and it is causing water to run like crazy,” said Andee Peterson, who operates PGC with her parents, Kim and Nola, brother, Ben, and sister, Casey. “Our reservoirs are all full now, which is a relief for us. It will be nice for spring and summer grazing.”
For a couple of weeks at the end of January, temperatures fluctuated in the 30s and 40s - still a significant improvement over the below zero temperatures at the beginning of January.
Last Friday, Jan. 31, the Petersons organized a day to freeze-brand yearling heifers. The family crew members who helped organize and gather the equipment needed included: Andee, Kim, Casey, Chancin, Trevor Davis and Lex Keller.
Freeze branding helps the brand stand out white against the black coats of registered Black Angus.
“We freeze branded yearling heifers with the help of a crew from Montana State University’s Northern Ag Research Center in Havre,” Andee said. “NARC wanted to give their staff some experience with freeze branding prior to branding their next group of heifers, so they came out to help.”
In addition to branding their heifers, the Petersons gave the heifers’ pre-breeding vaccine booster shots.
The family also weighed the bulls in the upcoming bull sale.
The 14th annual Montana’s Northern Premier Angus Sale will be on Thursday, April 9, at Bear Paw Livestock in Chinook.
“We weighed bulls and poured them with Clean Up last Wednesday,” she said.
The Petersons raise and lower the bull rations based on how they clean up their ration from the day before.
“We haven’t had to do much adjusting the last couple of weeks so we know they are right where they should be,” she added.
Meanwhile, calving is beginning at PGC, and there will be a lot of calves on the ground any day now.
“Five heifers have calved and we will probably start seeing 10 to 20 calves a day now at anytime,” Andee said. “It has been a very nice start to calving with this earlier warmer weather.”
The Petersons have not had to put their calving heifers in the barn with the current nice weather. However, if the weather would change, they do have a good barn with a cow camera, so that they could watch heifers and cows calving from their phone or computer.
“We watch the camera from our phones or from the house when we do have cows in the barn,” she said. “ Our cows get pretty used to us being around so we don’t have to worry much about frightening them.”
Andee, Ben and Casey, a veterinarian, take turns with night calving.
“Casey processes all of the calves each morning, taking their weights, giving them vaccinations, putting in tags, taking a DNA sample and more,” Andee said. “Casey also scores the dam for temperament, udder and foot quality, while Dad and I feed.”
The Petersons are calving in Pen 1, which is muddy right now and has puddles of water, due to the snow quickly melting.
They have several wood calving huts that Kim built more than 20 years ago that have been revamped.
“New for calving this year, Dad and Trevor, a college student who is in the last year of the diesel program at MSU-Northern, built a new calf hut out of a metal holding tank. It has pipe skids on the bottom so we can move it around, and it is really nice to have,” she said.
After calving, the Petersons do not move the cow/calf pairs. The pairs move from a couple of pens and then remain in what the Petersons call the horseshoe pasture.
“The horseshoe pasture was named from a dirt embankment that my grandpa Russell built for wind protection in the 1960s. It has been used for many decades now to protect young calves from the winter weather,” Andee said.
They shuffle the calves from the barn to Pen A, then to Pen B, and then to the horseshoe as they calve, and “they are tagged immediately unless it is very cold.
“If it is too cold to tag, we put glue back tags on them with a standard number that we write in our calf book until we can tag them at a later date,” she added.
But with the recent span of warm weather, it looks like the calves will be able to be tagged right away and stay out in their calf huts or with their mother cow.
Meanwhile, Andee visited Morgan Friede, to see how she was working with the NILE Merit Heifer that the Petersons donated.
Morgan is enjoying caring for her heifer.