- Associated Press - Thursday, March 12, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Unseasonably warm weather in the Dakotas is giving a boost to cattle ranchers in the midst of spring calving, though the balmy conditions do create a few concerns.

High temperatures in the two states this week have reached into the 50s, 60s and even 70s. The warmth has broken records for this time of year in eastern North Dakota, according to National Weather Service reports.

The warmth is a blessing for the 100 calves that were born in bitter cold a few weeks ago on Doug Bichler’s ranch near Linton in southern North Dakota.

“Everybody that’s calving is kind of just breathing a sigh of relief right now because when it’s this kind of weather you don’t have to worry about things like their ears freezing or a calf dying because it’s too cold,” he told KXMB-TV.

The warm weather also helps cows that are still pregnant, according to Bichler.

“The cows are a lot more stressed when it’s cold,” he said. “They don’t have as much energy to put into labor to giving birth to the calf because they’re expending so much energy on just trying to stay warm.”

There are some concerns with the abrupt change in weather, however, according to Reid McDaniel, a beef feedlot specialist at South Dakota State University. Wide swings in temperature can lead to respiratory problems in cattle, and can cause recently sick cattle to relapse.

“They get acclimated to a certain temperature,” McDaniel told The Daily Republic newspaper. “All of a sudden that changes, and it comes as a shock to them.”

Cory Eich, who runs a commercial feedlot near the eastern South Dakota town of Canova, said muddy pen conditions become an issue after several days of rapid thawing, but that overall he’s “quite pleased with the appearance of our cattle.”

The most recent livestock report from the federal Agriculture Department, released last week, rated most cattle and calves in the Dakotas as being in good to excellent condition. Cattle and calf death loss was rated average to light.

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