Despite 20 inches of snow and temperatures well below zero a few weeks ago, the spring heifer-calving operation at the Chuck DeForest farm northeast of Florence is going strong.
Forty-three first-calf heifers were exposed to bulls for 42 days — so far, 30 heifers have dropped their calves.
“It started on a Sunday (Feb. 6) and we had 10 calves during the cold weather,” DeForest said, indicating two-thirds of the heifers had given birth to calves in 14 days. He thought the calving may be completed in one, 21-day cycle.
There’s always a risk with first-time heifers, DeForest said, because the heifers are smaller and not as experienced and mature as cows, and their calves may not nurse as well.
Three calves were lost and a fourth is in jeopardy of not surviving.
The cattle were bedded on hay that was rolled out in an effort to keep them dry and warm.
DeForest also has 250 cows that will calve beginning Tuesday. Those were exposed to bulls for 60 to 90 days. He expects 60 percent of the calves to be born within the first cycle — most within 42 days.
Fluctuating temperatures can be hard on livestock, DeForest said, especially if cattle are purchased from the south in warmer temperatures and transported to the area where it’s colder.
The most recent snowstorm was deceiving, DeForest said.
“Despite the appearance of the snow being dry, it actually was pretty wet,” he said.
Moisture adds to the misery of livestock when temperatures are below zero.
“At least it’s not as wet now,” DeForest said.
In addition to the cattle operation, DeForest plants corn, milo, soybeans, and wheat. He also grows alfalfa, brome, and prairie hay. His wheat crop was not as good last summer as it had been in the past, corn was fair, but milo and soybeans were good, he said.
The farm operation is along U.S. 77, with the DeForests living nearby.
Anyone traveling on U.S. 77 near Florence has likely noticed the pristine rock home on the northeast side of the highway.
Built in 1873, the house has been in the DeForest family since the late 1940s and early 1950s when DeForest’s grandfather purchased it.
Interior woodworking was completed in the early 1900s.