COOPERTON, OKLAHOMA — Even in a land of extremes, the Wichita Mountains are used to warmer weather in March.
Charlie Swanson isn’t used to having windows rolled up in his truck.
His herd of Angus cattle had to deal with ice and 4 inches of snow over the weekend.
“We’ve not had any problems calving yet,” he says while driving through the pasture.
“It’s just been awful cold.”
“This year, seems like before Christmas, we had a 60 or 70 degree day followed by a 10 degree day.”
Charlie wouldn’t worry much about a little snow but he’s already two weeks into calving season.
By the time it’s finished Swanson hopes to have 40 of them running around this section alone.
He points out one bald-faced calf born in the early morning hours.
It’s coat is still wet.
He told us there could be another 15 young calves born on his place before the day ends.
Charlie explains, “If you don’t have an awful lot of wind it doesn’t bother the cows much. They’ll lay down and have a calf if they can get out of it.”
Cold by itself isn’t a cause for concern even for newborn calves.
Wet and cold can be if they don’t find a little shelter.
Swanson says, “If they can lay down in the grass and snuggle down and get out of the wind, or get behind some trees or something.”
If he checks on his new families a little more this time of year it’s for good reason.
One of his young calves ventured on the ice of a watering hole.
Swanson had to skate out on cowboy boots to rescue it.
“Every once in a while we have one get on the ice,” he says.
“Hopefully, we don’t have any fall through.”
Cattle can’t drink with ice on the ponds.
Charlie had to chop a hole with an axe.
Cold weather means putting extra bales of hay down for food and bedding.
He also carries a rifle in his back seat in case coyotes come calling.
“It’s a very exciting time of the year,” says Swanson.
“It’s always exciting to see little baby calves with there mommas.”
In the Cooperton Valley, between the Wichita Mountains and the Quartz range to the west, calving season means Spring is coming, even while Winter hangs on.
Calving will last another 6 weeks on the Swanson place.
By the time it’s over, Charlie might have as many as 400 young calves eating his grass.