Although the threat of freezing temperatures and sudden blizzards lessens each day as the season progresses, cold rain spells and a slight wind chill can still be detrimental to newborn calves.
But an experimental product from the National Weather Service is attempting to help livestock producers be a step ahead of the weather and mitigate losses during calving season.
The Cold Advisory for Newborn Livestock system uses wind chill, precipitation and sky cover data to create an index that details the likelihood of a newborn calf experiencing hazardous weather conditions.
Submitted Photo •
This map shows the test area for the CANL program, which uses weather data to predict hazardous conditions that might affect newborn livestock.
Color-coded, the index ranges from green for "none" to red for "extreme" and is updated every six hours. The forecast goes out 36 hours.
"The whole idea behind it is to hopefully give producers enough time to get more feed out or provide some additional shelter," said Tanja Fransen, one of the research team members behind the program. "Ranchers appreciate the heads-up. A lot of the time you're not going to get 12 feet of snow, but you could get some rain and enough wind chill things we don't necessarily issue warnings for to make things dangerous."
Launched last year, CANL is a collaborative effort between two professors Larry Kalkstein, a biometerologist at the University of Miami, and Katrina Frank, a researcher with a background in animal science and climatology and the National Weather Service office in Glasgow. Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce, the program currently operates from NWS stations in Aberdeen, S.D., Billings, Glasgow and Great Falls, Mont., and Bismarck, and covers the eastern two-thirds of Montana, the western two-thirds of North Dakota and a northeast section of South Dakota.
Because of the number of branches involved and the area covered, the exact number of ranchers using the system is unknown, but Fransen said she is aware of several dozen users in her area.
"It's really about getting the word out. This program can be utilized anywhere in the U.S. Newborn livestock are not acclimated to the weather when they're born. Some breeds are better suited for certain weather conditions, but no animal is fully acclimated no matter where they're born," she said, adding that the office has received interest from ranchers as far south as Oklahoma.
Launched this season in late January and continuing through Memorial Day weekend, the CANL forecast for North Dakota can be viewed at (www.crh.noaa.gov/bis/?n=canl).
Researchers are asking ranchers to submit feedback on the article. Feedback can be given by going to (www.weather.gov/surveynws-survey.php?code=GGW-CANL) or you can call the NWS Glasgow office at 1-406-228-2850.