Calving Season Survival Tips
We’re entering two of my favorite times of year right now: basketball playoffs and calving season. The goal of a basketball team is to make a deep run in the playoffs and the goal of a rancher is to save as many calves as possible. One of the key components for success in both fields is preparation. They both represent the endpoint of a lot of time, energy, rewards and resources.
Calving is the most important time of our ranch life. Not only do calves represent life, they represent generations of bloodlines, untold hours of caring for their mothers, the mothers before them, and on and on...
We are a cow/calf operation – the herd of cows is maintained year-round to produce a new crop of calves every year. The bulls are put in with the cows at a deliberate time in the summer so that the calves will arrive during a pre-determined two-month period in the “spring”.
In honor of the heart, spirit and weeks without sleep that comes with calving, I decided to share some of our Calving Season Survival Tips. We have had nine months to think about this. Right? My Cowboy and I sat down and came up with these suggestions.
Be prepared to assist in a birth and for the weather. We have family meetings about calving. We discuss where to put the heavies (cows that have not had their babies yet), we discuss where we are going to put the pairs (cows with calves on the ground), we discuss what pastures we are going to use,we discuss the weather outlook and we discuss the unknowns. It is always good to think about what to do and when to do it. As an example, if we know a storm is coming, or negative degree weather, we will move the heavies close to the house and in a protected area. We want to be able to access them as easy as possible and bring their calves in if they are getting chilled. We also usually feed the pairs in an area close to a tree row (which serves as a wind break). Therefore, the cows should bed down for the night close to the trees where they can be protected better.
“I do a lot more praying during calving.” - My Cowboy
Have a good attitude.
It is really easy to run down. It requires long days and long hours to ensure the herd health of our cattle but we have learned that just keeping a good attitude about our lives helps keep our heads above water. If we keep our head above the water we get to see the sun.
During calving season we operate under the sovereignty of Murphy’s First Law: “Whatever can go wrong – will”. So we prepare for it all. - My Cowboy
Check your supplies.
We call it the Calving Toolbox. This box contains everything that we might need to help a cow and her calf. Things that this box contains include: ear tags, markers, taggers (make sure you have a spare), a calving book (for records), milk tuber, colostrum, syringes, scour pills, bolus gun, plastic gloves (OB Gloves), disinfectant, a bucket, milk replacer, calf bottle, electrolytes, warming box (or maybe just the passenger side of your pick-up clean out), calf puller and chains, spotlight, and flashlights. I know that I am probably missing somethings but you get the idea.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks! I always try to have a pile of good, healthy snacks because during calving you never know when you might not get to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. We also prepare a lot of homemade jerky!
Don’t forget your spouse, kids, family and friends. When we are busy and stressed, we tend to forget about the special people in our lives. If we make it a priority to keep in touch with those that we love, or take time to share a laugh, or take time to send a text, or take time to make a phone call, then it will brighten our days and ease the stress of calving.
“Go on a date to chase away the calving blues!” - My Cowboy