In most normal years, producers who are calving would be racing against time to pull calves out of snowbanks and save precious ears before frostbite sets in.

Although the winter of 2011-12 has been abnormally mild, the potential for cold weather always exists during winter in our northern climates. While adult cattle are very tolerant of cold temperatures as long as they are dry and have shelter from the wind, newborn calves are not as fortunate. Cold temperatures and newborn calves can be a dangerous combination if producers do not take steps to protect newborns from the elements.

Anticipating changing weather patterns, identifying climatic conditions that are dangerous for newborns and taking appropriate preventative measures are ways producers can mitigate weather-related calf losses.

A new tool called the Cold Advisory for Newborn Livestock (CANL) is available from the National Weather Service for the western two-thirds of North Dakota, all of Montana and parts of South Dakota. The CANL system uses specific colors on regional maps to indicate the degree to which conditions dangerous to newborn livestock are present. The maps show conditions ranging from “none” to “extreme.”

During the process of developing the CANL program, the National Weather Service gathered information from the ranching community specific to climatic factors that affect calf losses. Temperature, wind chill, humidity, precipitation and cloud cover were identified as key risk factors and, in turn, these items were combined to generate the CANL forecast maps. Forecast maps show danger potential for 6, 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 hours into the future, and maps are updated every four hours.

The CANL program may be a good resource for producers looking for a single source of forecast information to determine the danger level for their newborn calves, which will allow them to take appropriate action to ensure the survival of calves being born during extreme conditions.

If you take a look at the maps now, they may be a pretty green, indicating a low risk of danger. However, keep this program in mind when the weather appears to be taking a turn for the worse, even if that is next year.

Links to CANL forecast for the following areas:
Bismarck, N.D.
Aberdeen, S.D.
Billings, Mont
Glasgow, Mont.
Great Falls, Mont.