Impact of Recent Weather on Ranchers

More than one month after the heaviest snowfall in years hit eastern New Mexico, ranchers are struggling to keep their animals healthy and alive. Newschannel 10's Tina Berasley travelled to rural Union county to bring the story of one family that's still working to bounce back after the storm.

Today only three calves live on this ranch, when there should be close to fifty. Ranch owner, Morrow Ownesby, says many were lost due to stressed out heifers. After the first storm hit in late December half of his herd spent over two weeks stranded on the pasture, four miles from his home...hungry, thirsty and pregnant.

Ownesby says: "We made three to six snowmobile runs hauling feed on sleds over there until we could get a dozer...over there like 8 miles the way we had to go to trail them out." Some were just not as lucky as recently born calves; others could have been born early or miscarried by their mothers.

Ownesby adds that "the only thing [the cattle] had to eat were pine needles and cedar bows, and...[eating] it would be like turpentine.  It will eventually kill the cow, but it certainly affects the calf. [They've] had cows that were not due to calf until April or May and [have] found fetuses that were just aborted."

He estimates each pregnant cow that dies will cost him $2,000.  A big hit, but not enough to change their way of life.

Ownseby's son Raymond says: "When your calves are your primary source of income and you start losing them for one reason or another that takes away from things you have to spend money on during the year. You've got to keep your head up and keep on going."

Morrow Ownesby agrees: "It's just one of those things where you don't throw your hat in; it's just a bump in the road. We'll make it."

Ownesby hopes many of the 200 pregnant cows in his herd will be strong enough to have their calves in the spring.