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April blizzards, freezing gizzards

Cooperstown (N.D.) Veterinary Clinic vehicles stand at attention at about 6 p.m, at the end of the day when the first call came at 3:45 a.m. Cattlemen are at various stages of completion for calving, which has been made miserable by snow and bitter cold. Photo at Cooperstown, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service1 / 2
Paul Motter, veterinarian and owner of Cooperstown (N.D.) Veterinary Clinic, says temperatures highs that are 25 degrees below average are making it miserable for cow-calf operators and the veterinarians who serve them. Photo at Cooperstown, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Forum News Service2 / 2

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. — April blizzards have added to difficulties for cattlemen in the region, as well as the veterinarians who serve them.

Paul Motter is a veterinarian and owner of Cooperstown Veterinary Clinic, where he's served for 30 years. Today he operates the practice with veterinarian Quynn (pronounced "Quinn") Steichen. It's a mixed practice that is two-thirds committed to large animal work and about one-third with pets and some horses.

The duo deals with roughly 100 to 150 clients in the region who have cow-calf operations of varying sizes. It's early April and cow-calf producers are experiencing temperatures of early March, Motter says, at the end of a recent Tuesday that started with a phone call at 3:45 a.m. to help with a prolapse.

Temperatures have been 25 degrees below average.

"It's putting a lot of strain on people, especially the people calving," Motter says. "A lot of the people calving now tend to calve at this time of year rather than earlier in the year because there are usually more moderate temperatures. I think there are some that are having some pretty major problems trying to keep calves alive."

Hypothermia is the biggest problem. Mortality rates vary among producers, but it has been devastating for some.

"There tend to be more problems in the first few" births in a season, compared to producers closing in on the end of calving season, Motter says. Abortions and stillbirths and problems associated with early twins are some of the common issues.

Problems are more apparent for people who don't have barn room for all of the cows that are calving at a particular time.

The practice hasn't seen many sick calves so far. Illnesses like scours and navel infections are often associated with warmer temperatures and resulting mud. But that doesn't mean he doesn't want it to warm up.

Motter grew up on a small, mixed farm in the Hope, N.D., area, about 45 miles from here, so he is no stranger to the region's climate. He's used to waiting, but says it's time for a change.

"I'm tired of winter," Motter says, chuckling wearily. "I would like to see spring ... I think everybody's pretty tired of winter."

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