Stewart Charolais at  Lake Preston, SD has gone through a lot of bedding and corn stalks this calving season keeping mother cows and calves bedded deep.
Stewart Charolais at Lake Preston, SD has gone through a lot of bedding and corn stalks this calving season keeping mother cows and calves bedded deep.


By Sarah Hill

Calving season is well underway in eastern South Dakota and it is going fairly smoothly, despite the abnormally cold temperatures and unrelenting snow. We caught up with two beef producers to see how their herds have been handling calving.

Rom’n Limousin & Club Calves

Owned by the father and son duo Robert “Cookie” and Adam Nielson, Rom’n Limousin & Club Calves, located near Arlington, South Dakota, is calving out 200 head this spring. That includes 30 first-calf heifers. All females have been artificially inseminated.

The weather during the 2019 calving season has presented their biggest challenges. 

“The cold, wind and wind chill just gives no leeway for the calves,” Adam says. “Once they hit the ground, we’ve only got about 10 minutes to get them in before their ears start to get nipped from the frost.”

“We’ve spent a lot of hours moving snow,” Cookie adds.

Cows spend about two days in the barn post-calving before being sent back out to the pasture. 

“We sort once a week to get the close ups into the barn,” Adam says.

Keeping Energy 

Levels High

Ensuring that cows have enough energy has also been a challenge this calving season.

“We’re feeding about one-third more than we fed last year,” says Adam. “After calving, once cows start milking, their energy requirement goes up.”

The Nielsons feed their cows silage, mineral supplement, chopped hay, and corn for extra energy. Adam notes that they’re sitting well on hay supplies for now.

“We usually feed distiller’s grains, but we’ve switched to corn for the additional energy,” Adam adds. “The silage pile is going fast, though.”

Stewart Charolais & Red Angus

Calving season is truly a family affair for Stewart Charolais & Red Angus, located near Lake Preston, South Dakota. The team is comprised of Jeff Stewart; his daughter, Katherine Haler; and son-in-law Matt Clark. Between spring and fall, they calve out 50 Red Angus and 120 Charolais, all purebreds, with 30 to 40 replacement heifers.

“We try to select bulls that are thick, deep-ribbed, hearty, with a good disposition,” says Stewart. “We also take the longevity of the cow’s mother into account when selecting bulls.”

All of the naturally serviced Red Angus females have calved, and two-thirds of the Charolais females are done calving as well. They anticipate being completely done with calving by the first or second week of April. 

“It’s been pretty good so far,” notes Stewart. “We’re very passionate about God’s gift of raising cattle.”

Most of the calves have ended up being between 80 to 100 lbs. Clark adds that the Red Angus calves tend to be the smaller.

The family has been taking the colder temperatures in stride. Stewart notes that having a camera in the barn has really helped with calving. He periodically checks cows on his iPad to determine if he needs to go out to the barn or not.

“The really cold temperatures have been keeping some of the major sicknesses away,” Clark says. “There haven’t been a lot of temperature or weather fluctuations, which is better for keeping calves healthy.”

“Dealing with the snow and cold is a lot more work,” Stewart adds. “We’ve got enough shelter and windbreaks and they’re bedded pretty deep, which helps a lot.”

Their biggest challenge has been making sure females have enough cornstalks and straw bedding in snowy lots. Females get about three days in the barn after calving before being turned back out.

Stewart Charolais & Red Angus, too, have had to feed more than usual to keep females’ energy requirements up.

“It’s been cold for quite a while, so we’ve fed out more than previous years,” Clark says. “We haven’t had any issues with ears getting frostbit.”

According to Haler, the operation feeds silage, oatlage, chopped hay, and earlage—all home-raised. The family is preparing for mud season, which they think is almost worse to deal with than snow.

“The real battle starts when the mud hits and the calves have to walk through it,” Stewart adds.